Colt a Star Witness for O'Brien's new complex

When Blue Diamond entries closed in November, there were 1227 nominations and not one of them belonged to Flemington trainer Danny O'Brien.
Juveniles are not normally on his radar.

After watching a second jumpout, however, O'Brien took a $5500 late-entry punt on a Starcraft-Leone Chiara colt, named Star Witness.

It has proved an inspired decision as the unbeaten Star Witness is a legitimate contender for Victoria's premier two-year-old event tomorrow, especially on the strength of his 1100m Talindert Stakes success at Flemington on January 30.

Quite apart from the ease of the win, only Lightning Stakes winner Nicconi ran a faster closing 200m at the meeting, and Nicconi and Headway were the only horses to clock a quicker final 400m.

Star Witness has come through a preparation at Barwon Heads preparation.Impressive stuff and from a foundation built on O'Brien's fledgling operation at Connewarre, near Barwon Heads - a stunning 64-hectare complex complete with 1600m horseshoe grass and sand track and a 1000m chute.

All the day paddocks have been irrigated thanks to a direct link to a grey water treatment plant in Barwon Heads. And five minutes away is Thirteenth Beach.

"It took a long time and we moved a lot of earth, but for me the priority was to always get the track right,'' O'Brien said.

"Stables are stables, but if you don't have your track right, it doesn't really matter what the stables are like.''

O'Brien fashioned a 20m wide grass track, along with an 8m wide sand track, plus day yards on the inside of the tracks.

And there's a 6m incline over the concluding stages of the track.

"It's stiff enough without being ridiculously stiff. You can't make horses too dour. It's a nice gradual incline,'' O'Brien said.

The trainer doesn't plan to reduce his operation at Flemington.

He says that and the Barwon Heads complex give him the best of both worlds.

Time is always on your side at a private complex, unlike at Flemington, or for that matter any other public track where the clock is always ticking and therefore a foe, time is always on your side at a private complex.

O'Brien said he could now work 10-12 horses a morning and do it at such a pace that's more beneficial to the horses.

"The more variety you can offer a horse over their life span, the more you are going to get out of them and the longer you will have them,'' O'Brien said.

"We'll work on a model where horses don't have to go out for breaks because they are jaded or tired. They could come down to Barwon Heads and work for a month or two and they retain that fitness and they're racing more often.''

O'Brien hoped the sizzling speed Star Witness displayed in the Talindert Stakes would be evident at Caulfield tomorrow.

"He's going to be a much better three-year-old. What he's doing now is on raw ability,'' O'Brien said.

"But, if there's pressure throughout, I know he'll be strong when it counts.''

By Adrian Dunn, to view Herald Sun racing website click here

Photo by Herald Sun's Darren McNamara />

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