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O’Lonera to begin his campaign at Valley

Cindy Alderson expects the VOBIS Gold Star to be short of O’Lonera’s best but the trainer says it is a good starting point for the talented stayer’s campaign.

O’Lonera is set to kick off his preparation in Saturday’s $100,000 race over 1500m at Moonee Valley with Nick Hall, who hasn’t ridden in a race since the end of the spring carnival, booked for the ride.

Alderson also has Rewarding Effort in the nominations but says he is unlikely to run.

Rewarding Effort won twice over 1600m during December but came out of his last-start fourth placing behind Plein Ciel at Caulfield last Saturday week with back issue.

“I think he’ll go to the paddock,” Alderson said.

“He just tweaked his back a little bit, so he’s likely to have a break to get over that.

“It hasn’t improved as much as I would have liked.”

O’Lonera won three-straight city races during his previous campaign.

After winning a 2000m handicap for three-year-olds at Caulfield in July he added the VOBIS Gold Stayers (2400m) before winning again over 2000m at Caulfield in a benchmark race in August.

The four-year-old gelding hasn’t started since his fourth in the Listed Harry White Classic (2400m) in September, won by subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Almandin.

“He seems to be in great order,” Alderson said.

“Obviously he’s never been effective at much shorter than 2000 metres so I would expect the race on Saturday to be too sharp for him, but you’ve got to kick off somewhere.

“He doesn’t really like wet tracks so we’re trying to get a bit more racing done before the winter sets in.

“We’ll see where he fits in this campaign, but if he takes the next step there’s a few nice races coming up for him.”

The VOBIS Gold Star has attracted 18 nominations with last year’s winner Burning Front the highest-rated entry.

The Alderson-trained Smart Dart is set to line up in Saturday’s 1200m benchmark-90 after finishing third in the Listed Christmas Stakes last start.

“He’s never raced at the Valley but I’m hopeful that it’s going to work for him,” Alderson said.

“He’s in fabulous form at the moment so I can’t knock him.”

Michael Dee rode Smart Dart last start but apprentice Ben Thompson reunites with him on Saturday having ridden the sprinter in his first three starts this campaign, including wins at Kyneton and Pakenham.

“He’s got a really good record on the horse so hopefully they can strike again,” Alderson said.

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