03/30/2006 12:00AM

Truly a Judge's style suited to Tokyo City

Truly a Judge, who runs in Saturday's Tokyo City, is still strong at age 8.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Truly a Judge is not acting his age. So says the 8-year-old's trainer, David Bernstein, and the horse's longtime exercise rider, Nestor Ocampo.

"Nestor has been on him for years, and says he feels bigger and stronger than ever," Bernstein said.

Want proof? On Monday, blazed three-eighths from the gate in 35.40 seconds, the fastest work of the day at the distance. It sets him up for a return to graded stakes company Saturday at Santa Anita.

Ten older horses entered the Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap, in which Truly a Judge will try to improve on a sixth-place in his comeback race on March 12.

"At his age, he needs a prep," Bernstein said, "and he is acting awfully good since then."

At 1 1/8 miles, the $100,000 Tokyo City is perfect for Truly a Judge's front-running style. A Grade 3 winner who has is 12 for 47 overall, Truly a Judge on Sunday faces a decent group, including pressers Congrats and Preachinatthebar; late-runners Texcess, El Roblar, and Bully Hayes; and Romeo Plus, Snorter, Sort It Out, and Melanyhasthepapers.

If Truly a Judge improves second start back, he and jockey Martin Pedroza can win the Tokyo City. Same with Congrats, who ran seventh in his Feb. 18 comeback.

"I wasn't too impressed," trainer Richard Mandella said. "But he's worked really well since then and I think he'll run his 'A' race."

It would not be the first time improved second start off a layoff. He won the Grade 2 San Pasqual last winter with a similar pattern, and enters Sunday as a chief pace rival for Truly a Judge. Congrats has won seven races and $978,760 from 23 starts, and blew out three furlongs Thursday in 35.20, second-fastest three-eighths of the day. Tyler Baze rides.

is another Mandella starter, and though he has won 4 of 6 starts, he has yet to earn a stakes-quality speed figure. He won a three-other-than allowance last out with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. It was his first start after six months off; improvement is possible.

Bully Hayes squandered a 1 1/2-length lead March 2 and lost to El Roblar, partly because of a premature move.

"It wasn't the jockey's fault," trainer Bruce Headley said, noting that Pat Valenzuela had to move early or be shuffled back.

Garrett Gomez takes over on Sunday. Headley made the jockey change last week when Valenzuela's riding status for the weekend was uncertain. Valenzuela rides Melanyhasthepapers.

Texcess last ran in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap; Preachinatthebar had an impossibly wide trip last out.