04/24/2005 12:00AM

Silent Witness wins record 17th straight


Silent Witness set a new modern era record at Sha Tin on Sunday when he scored his seventeenth career victory without a loss in the $384,600 Group 2 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup shortly before another local Hong Kong hero, Vengeance Of Rain, had taken the $1.79 million Queen Elizabeth II Cup at the expense of a top class international field.

The victory of Silent Witness, accomplished in his first try at a distance as long as seven furlongs, breaks Ribot's undefeated mark of 16 victoies as well as the 16-race winning streaks of Citation and Cigar. Breaking from the rail, the 1-20 Tony Cruz-trained son of El Moxie led throughout, cruising more than three lengths clear at the furlong pole before jockey Felix Coetzee eased up late. He crossed the line 1 3/4 lengths in front of Town Of Fionn, getting the seven furlongs on good to firm ground in 1:21.80.

Rumors of a proposed match race at Santa Anita between Silent Witness, the top rated turf sprinter in the world, and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper, have been swirling in recent days, but Silent Witness's owner Archie da Silva wasn't making any promises on Sunday.

"We have yet to meet with the American representatives (Ghostzapper's owner Frank Stronach), so we don't know what distance it would be at or what surface," da Silva said. "If it's turf we'll beat him, but if it is on dirt we could run on that too. Let's wait and see but nothing has been decided."

All of Silent Witness's 17 victories have come on the Sha Tin turf course between five and seven furlongs. The 6-year-old Australian-bred gelding will go next in Champions Mile at Sha Tin on May 14. That is the first leg of the Asian Mile Challenge, a two-race series that concludes in Tokyo on June 5 with the Yasuda Kinen.

Vengeance Of Rain, the winner last out on March 13 of the Hong Kong Derby, showed no small amount of class when landing the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup by three quarters of a length from South African invader Greys Inn. Ridden by Anthony Delpech and trained by David Ferraris, the New Zealand-bred son of Zabeel was the 4.70-1 second choice behind Australia's favored Grand Armee, who weakend to finish 11th of 14, beaten 8-1/4 lengths. Dubai Sheema Classic and Hong Kong Cup winner Phoenix Reach was fifth, Singapore International Airlines Cup winner Epalo was seventh and Dubai Duty Free winner Elvstroem was ninth as the winner covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.80.

Ferraris will keep Vengeance Of Rain at home for now, stating that his next outing will come on May 29 in the 1 1/2-mile Group 1 Hong Kong Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin.