A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Silent Witness last raced in Hong Kong, including two trips to Japan and the onset of a mystery virus that saw his Hong Kong Sprint plans aborted. But today's $4.5 million Centenary Sprint Cup over 1,000 metres at Sha Tin should prove that in nine months, despite the setbacks, nothing has changed. The amazing six-year-old, the highest rated sprinter in the world for the last two seasons, has not raced in Hong Kong since suffering his first defeat in the Champions Mile over 1,600m on May 14 when Bullish Luck ended his 17-straight winning streak. There have been times since his brilliant win in the Sprinters' Stakes in Japan on October 2 that hinted his reign may be over but in the last two weeks it's been the Silent Witness of old, tearing up the training tracks at Sha Tin suggesting he's set to return at his best. Silent Witness looked anything but a champion when finishing a labouring third to Natural Blitz and restricted class galloper Rum Shot in a barrier trial on February 7 but in four gallops since, the Tony Cruz-trained gelding has thrived. In his final piece of work out of the gates over 400m on the all-weather track on Thursday, Silent Witness, under Felix Coetzee, disposed of galloping companion Highlilli in brilliant fashion, recording the blistering time of 21.6 seconds. 'Compared to his previous two pieces of work out of the stalls, he jumped much better, worked with more enthusiasm and I think, overall, it was very hard to fault that work,' Coetzee said yesterday. 'After his barrier trial, it's fair to say I had some concerns. But everything he's done since then has been better - every gallop a bit better than the previous one. He's kept improving, every day.' The barrier draw has had a significant effect on race tactics. Silent Witness has drawn in gate nine, with speedster Natural Blitz (Glyn Schofield) directly inside him in eight, and another renowned speed merchant in Billet Express (Christophe Soumillon) on his left in gate 10. 'Once upon a time, he would have bounced and led but these days, at 1,000 metres, he can sit just off them,' Coetzee said. 'Natural Blitz has been showing brilliant speed, and he did so once again in the barrier trial the other day. I would expect he will lead again, and perhaps Billet Express may go with him. I'll be quite happy to let them go and follow. 'After all, we know Silent Witness is a great chaser. Whenever he's had something to chase, he's always done so and with a lot of tenacity. It's only when he's been left in front that he's sometimes been inclined to idle.' If Silent Witness does return to anywhere near his best, it's going to prove virtually impossible for any of his rivals to get near the machine-like gelding. They have all tried before and come up short. Scintillation has had three tries with his best being a third placing and Natural Blitz has exactly the same statistics. Planet Ruler ran Silent Witness to a neck on one occasion but he hasn't got as near in his next six meetings, while Able Prince's best attempt in six tries was a length second back in November 2004, when in receipt of five pounds. Stablemate Country Music gave Silent Witness some good competition last season, running second to the champ on two occasions, but the five-year-old hasn't been the same horse this time in. It does look like he prefers some softening in the ground to be fully effective. If there was to be an upset it would likely come from Scintillation, who turned in a terrific performance to finish a short-head second to Billet Express last start when giving away 27 pounds to the winner. But the form suggests that only Silent Witness having an off day would provide Scintillation or any other horse a winning opportunity. Then again, when he had an off day in September, 2003, he won then as well.