Despite third-place finish, Cruz claims champion is on track for triple crown It's full speed ahead for an overweight Silent Witness, despite his lacklustre barrier trial third at Sha Tin yesterday. Silent Witness began from the outside stall in a field of 13 and was never travelling comfortably for jockey Felix Coetzee as they attempted to chase the scorching pace of Hong Kong Sprint winner Natural Blitz. Silent Witness, in stage one of his comeback bid, eventually laboured into third, beaten five lengths by Natural Blitz and two lengths behind recent Class Three winner Rum Shot. Owners Archie and Betty da Silva were concerned with the apparently below-par performance of the world's top-ranked sprinter for the past two years, but trainer Tony Cruz attempted to allay their fears. 'That's the first serious bit of work he's done, and he's really needed it,' Cruz said. 'He's put on so much weight - he was 1,285 pounds this morning and we have to trim him down before his first-up run at the end of the month. 'But I'm not concerned. Today's trial was more like a race than a barrier trial, with a brilliant horse like Natural Blitz going out so fast. He's race-fit, and so is the second horse Rum Shot, who is a last-start winner.' While performance was lengths below the standards we have come to expect of Silent Witness - who is unbeaten in 18 starts at 1,400 metres or less - the trial times tend to support Cruz's theory. Natural Blitz won the 1,000m trial down the outside rail of the straight course in 57.5 seconds. This was 1.7 seconds faster than the average of the four 1,000 metres trials of the morning and also 1.7 seconds faster than the barrier trials standard time of 59.2. It was the second-fastest trial decided at Sha Tin over the past three years, bettered only by International Sprint Trial runner-up Cheerful Fortune who ran 57.3 in April 2004. Cruz asked Jockey Club veterinary surgeon Chris Osborne to scope Silent Witness after the trial and later reported a clean bill of health for the heavyweight. 'That trial will bring him on enormously,' Cruz said. 'You have to remember, he's had a complete break since missing the Hong Kong Sprint [December 11] and we're only just winding him up again. He'll have another couple of fast gallops down the riverside and we'll get the weight off him, don't worry.' Silent Witness has not raced since winning the Sprinters Stakes over 1,200 metres at Nakayama, Japan, on October 2. He was hit by a mystery infection - probably a virus - after returning home and missed his chance at a third Hong Kong Sprint. Silent Witness has now been set the target of defending his title as Hong Kong's triple crown winner for sprinters, which he has taken for each of the past two seasons. The opening leg is the Centenary Sprint Cup over 1,000 metres on February 26. From there he steps to 1,200 metres for the Chairman's Sprint Prize on March 26. The final leg of the series is the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m), which has been promoted to Group One status for the first time. The management at Ascot racecourse in England is closely monitoring Silent Witness's progress on the comeback trail, hoping to lure the great one to the Royal Ascot meeting in June for the Golden Jubilee Stakes. This is the race won last year by the Witness's old adversary, Cape Of Good Hope, and which ultimately sealed the win of the David Oughton-trained galloper in the Global Sprint Challenge.