If Silent Witness had a message for his legions of fans, what would it be? According to owner Archie da Silva, the six-year-old gelding would say: 'I'll come back next season and show you all.' 'The key words are 'fighting spirit',' says da Silva. 'He's a horse that thinks a lot. If you look him in the eyes he's got very little white - most of his eyeball is black. He looks at you and you feel he is thinking all the time.' With 17 consecutive wins under the saddle, Silent Witness is arguably Hong Kong's most successful racehorse and recognised as the world's best turf sprinter. The Australian-bred horse worked hard to become a thoroughbred icon, well before his unblemished record ended with a hard-fought second place in the Champion's Mile in May and a courageous third in Japan's Yasuda Kinen in June. 'I think he's a very proud horse. You can see the way he fights in every one of his races,' says da Silva. 'Even when he came second and third, he fought tooth and nail all the way to the line. But sometimes I feel he isn't concentrating in all of his races. If you look at that picture in the [South China Morning Post] of him in the Yasuda Kinen, the other two horses had their heads down and were pushing all out and he had his head up looking around.' That picture, along with many others, appears in Silent Witness - The Spirit of Hong Kong; a unique collection of photographs and interviews in a book tracing the career of this record-breaking horse and those involved in its success. From interviews with da Silva, trainer Tony Cruz and jockey Felix Coetzee to commentary from respected racing pundits such as the Post's Racing Editor Murray Bell, readers and fans can glean an insight into what makes a Hong Kong racing champion. 'If you ask Tony he'll tell you [Silent Witness] struts around like a champion,' says da Silva, 58, who co-owns the horse with his wife Betty. 'He's aware he's won quite a few races and he is a champ.' It was a combination of lineage and composure that piqued da Silva's interest in the horse he first saw in a video tape from blood-stock agent David Price. Silent Witness is the offspring of American-bred stallion El Moxie and former smart racing filly Jade Tiara, and da Silva is convinced the horse inherited his cool-headed temperament from his mother. 'I was trying to buy horses off [Price] and he showed me a tape of a horse in a paddock,' da Silva explains. 'He was just standing there quietly. Then, after I saw him in his two trials, I was very impressed and that's how I picked him. I first met him when he arrived in Hong Kong and was in quarantine. Tony took me over and I had a look at him and he was so calm and cool. That's a personality trait of all the progeny of Jade Tiara.' In his two-and-a-half-year career, Silent Witness has amassed an enormous fan base in the city, plus many followers from outside Hong Kong's racing fraternity. Da Silva says it's a matter of timing. Like the famous Seabiscuit during the American Depression, Silent Witness' success came at a time of political and economic uncertainty. 'I think it's got a lot to do with the heart and fighting spirit and that galvanises a city because it makes people feel ... they have a hero,' he says. 'It epitomises the fighting spirit of the Hong Kong people. If you watch the film or read the book, Seabiscuit was a horse that came from behind. In that race against War Admiral [1938 Pimlico Special Match Race], the trainer told [the jockey], 'Take him to the front, let him lead, but when you come to the turn, slow him down and let War Admiral catch up with you. Let him look the other horse in the eye and let him feel it.' Silent Witness is like Seabiscuit because he doesn't like other horses to go past. When he looks the other horse in the eye, he's going to fight all the way to the line. And that's the fighting spirit. It's the heart inside that horse.' Silent Witness - The Spirit of Hong Kong (SCMP Book Publishing) is available for pre-sale at Sha Tin racetrack today, followed by its release in major book stores. It costs $488, or $988 for a numbered, gold-plated-cover collectors' edition.