01/19/2011 2:37PM

Alley Hondro steps up to face open company after layoff

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Alley Hondro made the successful transition from maiden claimer to allowance race winner against statebreds through the second half of 2010.

The question surrounding his 2011 campaign is how far can he progress against open company?

A 4-year-old gelding owned by William Warren, Alley Hondro makes his first start since November in a first-level optional $40,000 claimer against open company in Friday’s seventh race at Santa Anita. Trainer Ron Ellis is taking his customary cautious approach to the more difficult race, but says Alley Hondro has shown signs of improvement.

“I don’t know if he’ll jump up and win but he’s moving in the right direction,” Ellis said. “He’s filled out and he’s looking better and better.”

Ellis hoped to start Alley Hondro a few weeks ago but wet weather in the second half of December curtailed the gelding’s training.

“He missed some training because of the mud,” he said.

Claimed for $32,000 in January 2010, Alley Hondro has run three times in the last five months. He won a maiden special weight race for statebreds at Del Mar on Aug. 19, finished second in a $62,500 claimer at Hollywood Park on Oct. 7 and won an optional claimer for statebreds on Nov. 13. He was not eligible to be claimed in November and is not entered for a price in Friday’s race, which is run over a mile on turf.

“I’m looking for him to show that he can be competitive,” Ellis said.

Alley Hondro may well be a short price, along with Dubai You X Y Z, who was third in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on Dec. 12 in his stakes debut for trainer Mark Tsagalakis.

The optional claimer drew a field of eight, including one shipper from England – Rule Breaker. Now trained by Darrell Vienna, Rule Breaker won a maiden race last June, and had one second in six subsequent starts. It is worth noting that the Vienna stable pulled a 10-1 upset on Friday with the English import Granite Girl.

Royal F J, third in the Del Mar Derby in September, makes his 16th start looking for his second win. Royal F J was fifth in an allowance race on Dec. 10. “His last few works have been super,” trainer Jack Carava said.