(from Japanese Racing Association report)
Hong Kong raider Silent Witness captured the last jewel of the Global Sprint Challenge (Jpn-I) on Sunday afternoon, winning the Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse. The top three favorites of the 1,200-meter race finished in order. Favored Silent Witness hit the wire in a time of 1:07.3 in the Japanese autumn season opener. Durandal finished 1 1/14 lengths behind the Anthony Cruz-trained Silent Witness, who rebounded from a third-place finish in the 1,600-meter Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Racecourse in June. The 6-year-old Durandal, ridden by Kenichi Ikezoe, had won the Sprinters Stakes in 2003 and was runner-up last year to champion Calstone Light O, who fizzled down the stretch to 10th place on Sunday. Admire Max came in third, with Maruka Kiseki and Keeneland Swan placing fourth and fifth, respectively. Jockey Felix Coetzee unleashed the 6-year-old Silent Witness on the inside along the Nakayama hill to take the sixth and final leg of the inaugural Global Sprint Challenge. The series will feature a new seventh race in 2006 at Hong Kong's Sha Tin Racecourse. Durandal made a furious run from the outside to close the gap, but could do no more than pass Admire Max by half a length. Silent Witness, whose birthday was Saturday, became the first horse from overseas to win the Sprinters Stakes since it began accepting foreign entries 11 years ago. Cruz, whose gelding picked up his 18th victory from 20 starts, believes the best of Silent Witness, already the highest rated sprinter in the world, is ahead of him. "This horse is a real professional race horse," Cruz told the post-race press conference. "I believe from one experience to another experience, he gets better each time." Owner Arthur da Silva was overwhelmed by the powerful performance from his beloved horse. Silent Witness was supported by fans who made the trip from Hong Kong. "It's a very special feeling for me, because Japan has always been a place that I love very much. I have come to Japan since 1975, more than 60 times," da Silva said. "I love Japanese food, I love the Japanese people, and to win this race in Japan, that is something very special to me, from the bottom of my heart." Da Silva revealed that he will fully enter Silent Witness in next year's Global Sprint Challenge which will feature a $1 million bonus. Cape of Good Hope, the other Hong Kong entry who had clinched the Global Sprint Challenge title after the fourth leg, came in 11th.