Six-year-old gelding Truly a Judge was in control from the outset of Saturday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III), winning his first graded stakes comfortably at Hollywood Park.
Jockey Martin Pedroza popped the gate with Truly a Judge from the far outside in the field of eight, crossed over in front of Black Bart and Supah Blitz before reaching the clubhouse turn and took control from there. Coming out of the turn for home, he kicked away from the field by about four lengths, then finished gamely under urging two lengths in front in a time of 1:47 for the 1 1/8-mile event.
Dynever, the 11-10 favorite ridden by Corey Nakatani, came on for second while never challenging the winner. Calkins Road, David Flores aboard, finished third, nine lengths behind the winner. Tizbud rallied late for fourth.
Black Bart, who along with Supah Blitz tracked Truly a Judge through solid fractions of :23 3/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 1/5, was pulled up in the stretch with an injury. He was vanned off.
David Bernstein trains Truly a Judge, a Kentucky-bred offspring of Judge T C
who has won back-to-back races and three times in his last four starts. He won a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming/allowance heat at Hollywood Park Nov. 18 in front-running fashion by 6 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:41 2/5.
"I finally figured out that that's the way he wants to run," said Bernstein, who won his second stakes race at Hollywood Park. "Put him on the lead, tell him to come get you. He ran so huge here three weeks ago, we decided to take a shot here. Obviously it paid off."
"This horse, when I rode him last time, I mean, I haven't had a horse run that fast in a long time and have so much left in the tank," Pedroza said. "If he ran back to that last race, I knew I'd be in good shape, and he did."
Pedroza won his first stakes race at Hollywood Park since 1998.
Bernstein claimed Truly a Judge for $20,000 when he was a 3-year-old.
"Actually, believe it or not, he's gotten larger as he's gotten older," Bernstein said. He's gotten taller is what's amazed me, he just kept on growing. My assistant Tony (Torres), he's done a marvelous job because this horse has had foot problems. He suggested we use turndowns on him and it's made a huge difference. His last two races were with turndowns and it's made a big difference. Good that we finally figured that out."
Dynever had shipped west for trainer Christophe Clement looking for his first win since winning the San Bernardino Handicap (gr. III) at Santa Anita handily in April. Instead, he finished second for the sixth time in his 16-race career.
"He ran a good race, but the speed was carrying," Nakatani said. "I didn't want to change his style because it didn't work in the Breeders' Cup Classic (finishing eighth). Today, he did what he was supposed to do in the race. Unfortunately, the winner got an easy lead, and nobody ran with him. The race was pretty much over at that point."
Alan Aidekman, Gaylord Ailshie and Tom Harris own the winner.
Sent off at odds of better than 6-1, Truly a Judge improved his record to 11-7-8 in 41 starts. He has earned $595,131.
He paid $14.80, $5.40 and $4.20. Dynever returned $2.80 and $2.60. Calkins Road was $9 to show. The exacta was worth $40.