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Northern Invaders Full Salute, Bella Flor Cap Turf Festival Meet with Stakes Wins

Nov 28, 2015
MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Shipping in from the north for the winter, Full Salute and Bella Flor made successful South Florida debuts by winning the final two stakes at Gulfstream Park West on Saturday.

Morris Bailey’s Full Salute bounced back after finishing off the board in the Futurity (G2) at Belmont Park with a one-length victory in the $75,000 Buffalo Man, while Bella Flor made a dramatic late run on the outside to win the $75,0000 Hut Hut for fillies. 

The Hut Hut and Buffalo Man were the final two of six stakes for juveniles on Saturday’s 11-race program that closed the two-month Fall Turf Festival meet. Live racing returns to Gulfstream Park Dec. 5 for the opening of the 2015-16 Championship Meet.

Based at Monmouth Park for the summer, Full Salute was second in both the Tyro and Sapling Stakes there before winning the Hall of Fame Sept. 26 at Parx. After chasing the pace in the six-furlong Futurity, the chestnut son of champion sprinter Speightstown faded to finish a distant fifth.

Under patient handing from meet-leading rider Edgard Zayas, Full Salute settled to the outside of Cat Tree who sped through a quarter-mile in 22.16 seconds and a half in 45.35. Full Salute moved up to challenge turning for home and edged away down the stretch to win in 1:11.31 for six furlongs over a fast main track.

“It was a great trip. Everything went like we planned,” Zayas said. “The last race, they rushed him a little bit and the horse didn’t like that. They told me to let him break out of the gate and wherever he wants to settle, just settle and make one run. It worked out perfect.”

It was the third win from seven starts this year for Full Salute ($8.40), second choice at 3-1 in a field of 12 for trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr.

“My concern was the racetrack here, coming from the tracks that we are. He handled it all and did what he was supposed to do,” Plesa said. “He had a target today. He was farther back and he relaxed nicely. He wasn’t overly aggressive the first part of it, so he’s getting more relaxed and becoming the horse that he needs to be to do bigger and better things.”

In the Hut Hut, Bella Flor ($21.80) rallied from far back under jockey Mario Pino and needed the length of the stretch to reel in favored Royal Story and get her nose down on the wire for her first career stakes victory. Winning time for one mile on the main track was 1:42.66.

“I thought we’d be laying a lot closer with the one-hole, and everybody gunned from the outside and we got buried in,” said Tim Girten, assistant to winning trainer Ron Potts. “I thought we were in a lot of trouble turning for home, but when Mario got her clear, she kicked in and came running.”

Silent Prayer came from outside post 12 to take the field through an opening quarter-mile of 23.84 seconds and a half in 48.67, tracked by long shot Baby I’m Worth It and Chief Attraction. While favored Royal Story was making a sweeping move on the outside to the lead, Bella Flor was bottled up behind horses until the head of the stretch, swinging wide for a sustained drive to the wire. 

Bella Flor had run her previous three races and four of five over the Polytrack at Presque Isle Downs, where she placed in three stakes including a nose defeat in the Mrs. Henry D. Paxson Memorial Stakes Sept. 20. 

In her only previous try on dirt, Bella Flor was fourth in the White Clay Creek Stakes July 29 at Delaware Park. The Hut Hut was her first start beyond 6 ½ furlongs.

“I never rode the filly before, and Tim said to watch her getting dirt because the only time she got hit with dirt, she went back to last and came flying at the end,” Pino said. “I got outrun from the one hole and she started coming off the bridle a little bit, hopping up and down. I knew I had a lot of horse, I just wanted to get her clear. Once I tipped her to the outside, she gave me a surge. I thought I had the best horse, I was just hoping to get up.”

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