Updated on 09/16/2011 8:22AM

Making claims for Truly a Judge

Truly a Judge wins the Claiming Crown Jewel at Philadelphia Park in August. Next, he will tackle the Goodwood Breeders' Cup, a race won by a former claimer, Freedom Crest, last year.

ARCADIA, Calif. - In the clearest indication of how far Truly a Judge has come in the last year, the $10,000 supplemental fee to make him eligible for Sunday's $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap is half of what a three-man partnership paid to claim him.

In the last 12 months, owners Gaylord Ailshie, Alan Aidekman, and Tom Harris have watched the 4-year-old gelding Truly a Judge win 4 of 10 starts and his first stakes - the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Philadelphia Park in August - and earn $218,180.

The ex-claimer angle worked last year in the Goodwood when Freedom Crest, once a $32,000 maiden claimer, upset Tiznow, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park.

While Truly a Judge's owners do not have aspirations for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup - at least not yet - they are ready to gamble that their 4-year-old can compete with some of the West Coast's top handicap horses in the Goodwood.

"I think we have a chance to hit the board," Aidekman said. "If he runs the race of his life and some of the other guys are a little off, we could possibly win."

Aidekman has had the Goodwood on his mind since Truly a Judge won the Claiming Crown Jewel as the favorite on Aug. 31. After the race, he proposed his idea to Ailshie, who thought little of it. The owners let the initial nomination stage go by on Sept. 6 without nominating Truly a Judge for $400.

"At that time, War Emblem and Came Home were going there," Ailshie said. "I said to Alan, 'We'll get our heads jerked off.' He said, 'You don't know what will happen.'

"I was $400 foolish and now am $10,000 wiser. We watched horses scratch out of it and we watched the Judge training. He seems to be on top of his game now. This field came up lighter than expected. We think he can be competitive with these horses. We know he's got heart."

Trained by David Bernstein, Truly a Judge will be a longshot against a field that includes Momentum, the runner-up in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic, as well as major stakes winners Euchre and Grey Memo. While the idea of starting Truly a Judge in the Goodwood seemed strange to Ailshie a month ago, a year ago it would have been preposterous.

Truly a Judge showed little promise at 2 or in the early part of his 3-year-old season. He needed seven races to win his maiden and raced for as little as $16,000 at Del Mar in August 2001. On the day he was claimed by his current owners for $20,000, Truly a Judge won his third race. It was also the third time he was claimed.

"We were looking for a horse that could run in an allowance race," Aidekman said.

Over the following months, Truly a Judge showed improvement - and consistency.

His current owners ran him for a claiming price only once, for $32,000 five weeks after he was claimed. He won that race by 3 1/2 lengths. Had he been claimed, it would have been a brief - and profitable - venture.

"We would have been happy at the time, because that is what this game is about," Ailshie said. "If you can claim one and get a win and have someone take him, you've got money to go get another. But ones like [Truly a Judge] don't come along very often."

Truly a Judge won consecutive allowance races at Santa Anita last winter, and then finished second, third, or fourth in five consecutive allowance races before winning the Claiming Crown Jewel.

Truly a Judge is the best horse that Bernstein has trained since The Wicked North, the champion older male of 1994. "It's been a while since I've had one like him," Bernstein said.

Bernstein was impressed with the way that Truly a Judge handled 1 1/8 miles at Philadelphia Park, the same distance as the Goodwood. "He was always a horse that could run," Bernstein said. "He's gotten better with age and maturity.

"If he runs well, we'll look good. If he runs poorly, they'll say, 'What were those idiots doing in there?' We'll get an idea of how good he is because you never know."

For Truly a Judge's owners, the gelding's success has been a dream. The 6-foot, 7-inch Ailshie, 71, is retired in Palm Springs. He spent 20 years working for the County Health Department in Los Angeles after retiring from the Army as the executive director of medical personnel training.

Aidekman, 54, is a former television writer whose credits include "Laverne and Shirley" and "Married. . . With Children." He and his wife, Donna, are opening a fitness center for women in Orange County on Monday.

Harris, 53, owns a photography business in the San Diego area.

For a small investment, they have a shot at a massive purse on Sunday.

"Do we have the best horse in the world? I don't think so," Ailshie said. "We have a horse that doesn't know when he's beat."