Incomparable Silent Witness sets a new standard
25 April 2004
At long last, the undefeated champion Silent Witness has his own place in history. His inevitable 11th straight success - a Hong Kong record - was registered in the HK$4.5 million Chairman's Sprint Prize (HKGr.1-1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Still only a four-year-old, Silent Witness has now amassed career earnings of over HK23.1 million (US$2.95 million). This was his fourth straight Gr.1 success and his seventh running at Pattern level.
His clean sweep of the three legs of the Champion Sprint Series secured a bonus of HK$2 million for owners, Mr and Mrs Archie da Silva.
And, on the subject of earnings and new records, the win took trainer Tony Cruz to a new record for prize-money earnings of over $83 million - a phenomenal achievement with still 16 meetings of the season left.
If in racing there is no such thing as a certainty, then how do you categorise a horse that routinely starts at the minimum 1/10 favourite and always wins comfortably?
Rival trainer David Hayes has his own label for the El Moxie gelding, the world's leading older turf sprinter: "He's a freak, a genuine freak. We can't beat him. Can't even get close," Hayes said.
But racing thrives on its champions and the 40,000 plus present at Sha Tin knew they probably will never see one like him again.
Today's race panned out almost identically to the preceding ten. Back over 1200m for the first time in seven starts, the champion toyed with a top field. He broke cleanly, made the running and entered the home straight with ears pricked. Challengers presented themselves but they were left clutching at thin air as jockey Felix Coetzee only needed to shake the reins at the champion, who won eased down.
The margin was two and a quarter lengths back to Cape Of Good Hope, with former Horse of the Year, Electronic Unicorn, making a very pleasing return to the track after a year's absence filling third place.
"I was confident it was his race. If Felix had ridden him all the way he could have broken the track record. He could stretch to 1400m without a problem but there are so many big 1000m races here it makes sense to keep him to the sprints," trainer Cruz later said.
With the record broken, what next for the world's leading older turf sprinter?
"He'll have an early summer. He won't be going to Royal Ascot," said owner Archie da Silva. "We are undecided about the Sprinters' Stakes in Japan on October 3 because there might be no lead-up race here for him. We'll take a look at the programme first. But he's a Hong Kong horse and as you can see the public love him. Wherever he races, Hong Kong interests will come first."