12/04/2002 1:00AM

Ward thinking Exclusive triple


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Men's Exclusive seems more like a family pet than a racehorse to Wesley Ward. Having a horse in the barn for more than seven years can have that effect on a trainer.

"He's a horse that can almost talk to you when he's really right or off," Ward said. "When you get to know a horse, you know when he's coming up to it right."

For Ward and owner-breeder H.E. Reed, the career of Men's Exclusive has been a source of pride. On Saturday, the modestly bred 9-year-old gelding will try for an unprecedented third consecutive win in the $100,000 Vernon Underwood Stakes at six furlongs at Hollywood Park.

A victory would be the seventh stakes win in Men's Exclusive's career. He has 41 starts and earnings of more than $1.3 million.

On Wednesday at Santa Anita, Men's Exclusive had his final workout before the race, going four furlongs in 47 seconds, which tied for the fastest of 45 recorded works at the distance. Ward clocked Men's Exclusive even faster, in 46.80 seconds.

"The way he worked today, he's coming up to it very well," Ward said.

Foot problems have forced Ward to take a conservative approach to Men's Exclusive career in recent seasons. The Underwood will be Men's Exclusive's seventh start of the year, one more than he made last year. In both seasons, he traveled to Dubai, finishing second in the $2 million Golden Shaheen in 2001 and fourth in the same race earlier this year. He is winless in six starts dating back to the 2001 Underwood.

"The only thing he's really ever had is that his feet bother him," Ward said. "He's got no walls so you can nail in a shoe. He lives in glue-on shoes. He's a big horse, too, and that's what makes it difficult. I'm training him barefoot a lot when I back off of him."

Men's Exclusive doesn't face a strong field in the Underwood, with the circuit's top sprinters - Disturbingthepeace, D'Wildcat, and Kona Gold - not running. The probables for the Underwood include American System, F.J.'s Pace, Mellow Fellow, Mighty David, National Saint, and Ride and Shine.

The Underwood does have a field that Men's Exclusive can beat to complete his unusual triple in the Grade 3 Underwood.

"This horse has been a project his whole life," Ward said. "I'm lucky that the owner allows me to be so patient with the horse."

Malibu kicks off Strub Series

The $200,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita is still three weeks away, but a strong field is forming for the first leg of the three-race Strub Series for 4-year-olds of 2003.

The probables for the seven-furlong race on Dec. 26 include American System, Castle Gandolfo, Century City, Golden Hare, Rushin to Altar, Smile N Wildcat, and Sunday Break. Castle Gandolfo was recently acquired by Paul Reddam and is now trained by Craig Dollase. A winner on dirt in England last year, he finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby this year.

The Malibu field is likely to include a starter trained by D. Wayne Lukas. Day Trader and Shah Jehan are possibilities.

Century City finished eighth as the 2-1 favorite in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby last Sunday. Trained by Beau Greely, Century City has never started on dirt.

"We've always wanted to try dirt," Greely said. "I don't have a lot of excuses for his race. I think he's a lazy horse and needs to be put into the race earlier."

Tout Charmant to Dahlia

Tout Charmant, who was held out of the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes last weekend by trainer Ron McAnally, is being pointed to the $150,000 Dahlia Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Dec. 21.

McAnally will also start Alozaina, who has been stakes placed on turf this year. Both will have to beat Tates Creek, the winner of the Las Palmas Handicap last month at Santa Anita, who will likely be favored.

McAnally said Jimmy Z, the upset winner of the Forty-Niner Handicap at Golden Gate Fields last Friday, will bypass the Native Diver Handicap. The $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap at 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 4 is a possibility. The San Pasqual is worth $50,000 less than the 2002 running.

Pedroza suspended 10 days

Jockey Martin Pedroza has been hit with a pair of five-day suspensions for his role in two disqualifications last Sunday.

Pedroza was cited for "crossing over on the backstretch without sufficient clearance," while riding Time to Please in Sunday's first race, according to steward Tom Ward. Time to Please was disqualified from third and placed fourth.

In the seventh race, Pedroza finished first aboard Concussion, but was disqualified and placed second for "failure to make a proper effort to maintain a straight course in the stretch," Ward said.

The first five-day suspension begins Saturday. The second ends on Dec. 20.

* D'wildcat, winner of the De Francis Dash last month, breezed three furlongs in 37.60 seconds on Wednesday at Santa Anita. Trainer Bob Hess Jr., said the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Handicap at six furlongs at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 4 is a possibility. The race could serve as a prep for the General George Stakes at Laurel in February and the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in the spring.