01/01/2005 12:00AM

Truly a Judge captures San Gabriel

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Benoit & Associates
Truly a Judge wins the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Taking advantage of a surface switch and the withdrawal of four rivals, Truly a Judge won his second consecutive graded stakes in Saturday's $150,000 at Santa Anita.

Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, Truly a Judge stalked pacesetter Forty Suertudo to the middle of the backstretch, took the lead before the final turn and held off a late threat from Star Cross to win by a length.

Ridden by Martin Pedroza, Truly a Judge ($3.60) finished 1 1-8 miles in 1:48.90. "I had a lot of horse underneath me," Pedroza said.

Continental Red rallied from last in the field of six to finish third. Epicentre, Grafton, Habaneros and Lundy's Liability were withdrawn.

Truly a Judge, who races for the partnership of Gaylord Ailshie, Alan Aidekman and Tom Harris and trainer David Bernstein, is in the best form of his career. A 7-year-old gelding, Truly a Judge won the first stakes of his career in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 11. The Grade 3 San Gabriel marked his third consecutive win, a streak that began in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park on Nov. 18.

"Our horse is very sharp," Bernstein said. "He has a lovely stride. This race was a little quick back, but he's a hard-knocking horse."

A winner of 12 of 42 starts and $685,131, Truly a Judge will be pointed for the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 6.