Updated on 09/16/2011 6:53AM

Bunk N Ted overcomes all obstacles


OLDSMAR Fla. ? Bunk N Ted gave every indication he will be a horse to be reckoned with in this year's Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday after he overcame a poor start, a pedestrian pace, and traffic problems to post a 2 1/4-length victory in the $50,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Patiently ridden by Derek Bell, who remained cool despite the troubles, Bunk N Ted ($5) remained unbeaten in three career starts.

Canadian stakes winner Tails of the Crypt finished second, a head in front of Raymond Springs in the 1 1/16-mile prep for the March 17 Tampa Bay Derby.

Bunk N Ted hopped in the air as the gates opened. He recovered quickly but still trailed the field through an opening half-mile of 51.20 seconds and six furlongs of 1:16.58 over a racing strip that was sloppy and tiring.

Bell was forced to wait behind and inside rivals through the second turn and into the stretch for clear racing room but deftly swung Bunk N Ted out five wide to go after the leaders. He responded quickly when shown daylight, went right to the leaders passing the furlong marker, then accelerated smartly in the final furlong and was pulling away at the finish.

Cruz cool under fire

Jockey Manoel Cruz, with 31 winners at the current meet and one of the hotter riders in the past 10 days with seven winners from his last 24 mounts, is always interesting to watch. He keeps working on mounts, refuses to wrap up on most horses, and that never-say-die attitude has produced winning efforts on mounts that may otherwise have finished second, third, or even off the board.

Last Saturday's first race was a perfect case in point. Cruz was aboard Sheza Princess in a six-furlong maiden sprint. It was cold, windy, and rainy. When starter Max Powell sprang the latch, Sheza Princess pitched to the outside, bouncing soundly off the outside of the stall and knocking Cruz off balance. In the process, the young rider's left foot came out of the stirrup.

Some riders would have simply pulled their mounts up but Cruz didn't panic and refused to quit. He steadied his mount long enough to get himself back in the irons, then went about catching the field.

Tenth after the first quarter-mile, Cruz and Sheza Princess made up ground quickly, then, when a well of horses confronted the pair leaving the turn, Cruz swung his mount to the far outside, fanning some nine horses wide for the drive. He continued along the far outside, rallying past the leaders through midstretch and was drawing off at the end, coming from last to win by three lengths.

Cruz's coolness under fire and refusal to quit resulted in another win.