08/15/2002 12:00AM

Zone Judge finally a healthy horse

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Zone Judge has shown flashes of brilliance in his two campaigns at Woodbine for trainer Dave Dwyer.

And although Zone Judge also has disappointed on more than one occasion, Dwyer believes those days are behind him and is looking for the colt to come up aces in Saturday's Play the King.

"He's going to have to run a good race to beat these horses," said Dwyer. "I expect him to run huge; he's been training great.

"His biggest problem used to be his feet, but we seem to have it solved."

Zone Judge, a 4-year-old owned by Winston Penny, was purchased at Keeneland as part of a dispersal of the stock of Robert and Bea Roberts in the fall of 2000.

"I'd seen the ad in the Daily Racing Form," said Dwyer, "and phoned Winston Penny. He asked me what I thought he'd bring, and I said $100,000 to $125,000.

"It turned out we bought him for $145,000. When I got there, and saw this horse, I couldn't believe how gorgeous he was."

Zone Judge started four times last year, recording a win and a pair of seconds before going to the sidelines in mid-July, but opened his current campaign with two disappointing efforts two months apart.

"He popped a quarter crack in his first start," said Dwyer, "and when he ran back, he was full of mucus."

Zone Judge has been in fine fettle since June, however, winning two of three starts in stalking fashion. And Dwyer believes that style is the key to Zone Judge's recent good form.

"I've been telling his riders not to take him to the lead," said the trainer. "He doesn't want to go to the lead; he's a one-run horse.

"But he breaks so good, and runs so easy - he's a long-striding horse, he'll deceive you."

Two good claims

Dwyer took a rather unusual gamble here June 28 when he claimed two horses, Wantanotherwon and Black Tie Justice, for $40,000 apiece from the same race on behalf of owner Peter Chiodo.

But the move has returned immediate dividends as both horses were winners of first-level turf allowances in their first starts for their new barn.

Wantanotherwon, who won the June 28 race, returned four weeks later to score his third consecutive victory over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

"He's a really nice horse," said Dwyer, who nominated Wantanotherwon to the Play the King but will be looking for a second-level allowance. "He's kind of a stiff-going horse - I just let him play in the field, and galloped him."

Black Tie Justice, third the day he was claimed, had been off for six weeks when he returned to win last Sunday.

"He had his back bothering him," said Dwyer. "I kind of took it upon myself to groom him myself. I put the massage machine on him every morning."

Allowance horse makes long trip for stakes

With Iris, the lone invader for the Play the King, checked in Wednesday evening from California.

"He's bouncing this morning," said local trainer Eric Garcea, who is caring for the horse until trainer Eddie Truman arrives from Del Mar.

Truman will be making his second trip to Woodbine. He sent out Casino King to finish second here in the 2000 running of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy.

A Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding, With Iris began his career in England and was purchased privately there by Truman in early 2000 on behalf of his current group of owners.

With Iris has started 15 times since arriving in North America, winning just once but finishing second on five occasions and third three times while competing primarily in first-level allowance company.

"He's been good; he's made some money," said Truman, from his Del Mar base.

"He's been kind of in between the raindrops. It's funny out here - in some of the first allowance races it takes a $50,000 horse to win it. But in probably all of his allowance races, he just kept catching tough fields."

Truman credits With Iris's owners for the decision to try the Play the King.

"We're fortunate here that nine months of the year here we have turf sprints to run, just any time we want, basically," said Truman. But during Del Mar and Pomona [Fairplex Park], we don't have any choice for a turf sprinter.

"So they saw this race, and were willing to take the chance to come up and run.

"We know he's just an allowance horse, but I think it's a good move."

With Iris has been an improved performer this season, registering a win and two seconds from three appearances.

"I'd tried to make him a two-turn horse," said the trainer, "and he ran some decent races, but just never lived up to what I thought he could do.

"Everyone agreed to give him a break, because he'd been training since his 2-year-old year. I said this time, when we bring him back, let's try training him just to sprint.

"We're hoping this is kind of what's going to turn the corner, and make him the best horse he can be.

Clark badly injured in training accident

David Clark, fourth in the rider standings here, was in stable condition at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital Thursday after being seriously injured in a training accident on the main track.

According to reports, Clark's mount suddenly reared up, unseating the jockey, and then fell and rolled over on him. Clark was taken to Sunnybrook because the hospital features a special trauma unit.

"He has a broken collarbone, nine broken ribs, and a punctured lung," said jockey agent Ken Zweig, who represents Clark. "But there's no neurological damage, and no organ damage."

Clark is expected to remain under observation in hospital for a week.