01/19/2002 1:00AM

Small track gets Exciting Story


OLDSMAR Fla. - It's not often a track the size of Tampa Bay Downs has a Grade 1 stakes winner in its feature race, but it will happen Tuesday when Exciting Story, winner of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile at 56-1 last May, makes his 2002 debut in the $50,000 Super Stakes at seven furlongs.

Exciting Story, a winner of six of 18 lifetime starts with earnings of more than $800,000, has been sidelined since September, but, according to Greg Degannes, assistant to trainer Mark Casse, the horse will not be using Tuesday's race as a public training session.

"He's fit and ready to roll," Degannes said by cell phone as he brought another Harry Mangurian-owned runner, Expected Hour, into the backstretch for Saturday's Pasco Stakes. "He's been training as well as I've ever seen him train since we brought him to Ocala, and I'm looking for him to run well on Tuesday. Mark and Mr. Mangurian liked the one turn and seven furlongs of the Super Stakes.

"Assuming he runs all right Tuesday and comes out of the race all right, Mark and Mr. Mangurian will explore our options for the spring and summer. There are some races in south Florida and there's also a chance we may look at a race in Dubai."

Future bright for Bunk N Ted

It's that time of year when folks start talking about young horses who may have a bright future, and while it's premature to book any reservations in Louisville for the first week in May, Bunk N Ted turned in a performance here last Tuesday that suggests he could have a promising season ahead of him.

Bunk N Ted made his second career start in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race that was moved from the turf course to the main track.

Eighth in the early going under a snug hold by jockey Derek Bell, Bunk N Ted rolled up along the far outside into the far turn. He overcame having to rally five wide and blew the doors off his competition after galloping to the lead after six furlongs. Turning into the stretch Bell asked his mount for a bit of run and Bunk N Ted kicked into another gear, opening up eight lengths a furlong out. He continued to pull away in the final furlong, hitting the wire 12 lengths in front under only mild urging.

Bunk N Ted, a Belong to Me colt, is owned Danny Hutt, who was his trainer of record in Kentucky and no doubt has an active role working with the gray colt here at Tampa, where he is being trained by Kenneth Wirth.

Bunk N Ted earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 82 in his career debut going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs, and a 91 Beyer for his most recent race.

It's early yet, but don't be surprised if Bunk N Ted winds up in the lineup for the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby here March 17.