02/21/2002 1:00AM

Maddy favorite Dubai-bound

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Wesley Ward is making plans to return to Dubai with Men's Exclusive.

First stop on the trip is at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday for the $100,000 Ken Maddy Sprint, where the 9-year-old Men's Exclusive will be the 121-pound highweight in a field of seven Cal-bred sprinters.

"He's an old horse," Ward said. "We plan on going to Dubai [where Men's Exclusive ran second last year in the $2 million Golden Shaheen], but being an older horse, he runs better with his races close together."

Men's Exclusive was fourth in the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 27 in his 2002 debut. Saturday's six-furlong sprint will serve as a prep for next month's Dubai race, and Ward expects an improved try.

"We didn't have him cranked up for the last race," Ward said. "I thought he raced well, but I wasn't expecting him to be at his best.

"When he gets close to a race, he gets on edge, but in the Palos Verdes, he was very relaxed in the paddock."

Men's Exclusive is sharper. And Ward, who said he would pass the race only if the track turned sloppy, also believes the race sets up for him. There should be a pace battle among El Dorado Shooter and Echo Eddie, who ran one-two in the race last year, Gibson County, and Tony's Royalty.

"This race sets up beautifully for him," Ward said. "He's going really good. He'll settle, then make his move."

It's hard to believe that Men's Exclusive, the favorite in the 1997 Breeders' Cup Sprint, is still running. He has troublesome feet, but thanks to Ward's patience and the artistry of farrier Wes Champagne, Men's Exclusive is still running and has become a millionaire.

"He's a pleasure to train, but the majority of his success goes to his shoer," Ward said.

Ward knows Men's Exclusive well and has adapted his training pattern to what he likes. "Now we don't train him very hard," Ward said. "His feet are better, and he's sounder than he's ever been."

Men's Exclusive loves the track. Ward takes him to the track daily, but most of the time he stands on the track and simply watches the other horses work. "We might gallop him once or twice a week," Ward said.

* It's been a busy week of travel for Ward, who won the 1984 Eclipse Award as the leading apprentice jockey. He was a guest of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Bobby Frankel at Monday's Eclipse banquet, where he met Jeremy Rose, this year's Eclipse winner as the leading apprentice.

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