Star bends O'Brien's rules

Danny O'Brien has never had much time for the Golden Slipper - a mad cash grab for half-mature babies has never been his thing.

O'Brien is a cups man, a young trainer with a traditionalist's desire to win century-old staying races that ask both horse and trainer to stay the long course.

A fortnight from tomorrow O'Brien is likely to have his runner in the $3.5 million race that has never previously interested him.

In fact, if Star Witness "smashes" his rivals in tomorrow's Todman Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill, O'Brien reckons he might have his first Slipper favourite.

O'Brien insists he remains true to his philosophy that places cups above baby sprints, that regards zillions on offer for two-year-old races as almost obscene.

"My philosophy is still the same," O'Brien said.

"Caulfield and Melbourne Cups are grand finals to me, not Golden Slippers.

"I'm not the type of trainer to push a horse to any race, let alone a two-year-old.

"Golden Slippers don't get me nervous, even though winning this race would make Star Witness an extremely valuable horse. Cups make me nervous.

"That's why I was so gutted Vigor missed out last year (balloted from Melbourne Cup). Months and months of planning and preparation went down the drain.

"The Slipper, though, I don't regard as any grand final.

"Star Witness could be Golden Slipper favourite on Monday or he could be in the paddock."

O'Brien's logic in pursuing a race that has never previously been on his radar is simple.

"The horse is jumping out of his skin," he said.

"This race was never on his radar. Nor was the Blue Diamond (which Star Witness won) for that matter.

"But he's given me no reason to pull the plug. In fact the opposite is true. He went back down to the farm at Barwon Heads after the Diamond and just bloomed.

"He wouldn't have been tipped into the paddock until April, anyway. He'd had only three runs and had another couple in him. The fact one happens to be worth $3.5 million is a bonus."

Star Witness has thrived in the week he has been at Rosehill. "He's continued where he left off at Barwon Heads."

O'Brien said the Slipper picture would change after the weekend.

"If John O'Shea's filly (Solar Charged, Reisling Stakes) wins well, then she might have a pretty tight grip on the race. Then again if Star Witness smashes them, he might be the one they all have to beat."

Story by Matt Stewart

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