11/28/2015 6:29PM

Rafting rallies to win going away in Smooth Air

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Lauren King
Rafting wins the Smooth Air Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths Saturday at Gulfstream Park West.

MIAMI – Rafting may have earned himself a chance at some of the important 3-year-old preps this winter during the Gulfstream Park Championship meet after rallying to a convincing 2 1/4-length victory Saturday over the promising Fellowship in the $75,000 Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream Park West.

The Smooth Air was one of six 2-year-old stakes decided on the final day of the 2015 Gulfstream West meeting. Fellowship became the second of six consecutive losing favorites in those six stakes, going postward the slight choice at 7-5 over the 3-2 Rafting in the one-mile Smooth Air.

Rafting didn’t have the smoothest of trips en route to his second win in four starts. After being squeezed back at the break, Rafting ducked out well wide into the opening turn before taking up a striking position off the pace of American Phantom. With Edgar Prado aboard, Rafting readily took command before five furlongs, repulsed a bid from Fellowship in early stretch, and won going away. Fellowship, winner of the In Reality division of the Florida Sire Stakes last month, rallied out of last to within easy striking distance of the winner turning into the stretch but was not good enough while easily second-best in the field of seven 2-year-old colts.

Rafting, a homebred son of Palota Falls, is trained by Graham Motion. He paid $5 after completing the distance over a fast track in 1:40.

Full Salute wins second stakes in Buffalo Man

Full Salute became a stakes winner for the second time in his career after running down the pace-setting Cat Tree to capture the six-furlong Buffalo Man by one length under leading rider Edgard Zayas. Pirellone, the 8-5 favorite, rallied belatedly to finish third.

Full Salute, a 2-year-old son of Speightstown trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., captured the Hall of Fame Stakes at Parx earlier this fall. He settled midpack down the backstretch, commenced his bid on the turn, continued strongly down the center of the track, and won going clear. Cat Tree held gamely on the lead but could not contain the winner while besting the wide-running Pirellone by a nose for second.

Full Salute covered six panels in 1:11.31 and returned $8.40 as the second choice.

“My concern was the racetrack here,” said Plesa. “He handled it all and did what he was supposed to do. He had a target today. He was farther back, and he relaxed nicely. He’s getting more relaxed and becoming the horse he needs to be to do bigger and better things.”

Ballet Diva tops House Party

Chalk players should have taken the first stakes on the card, the $75,000 House Party for 2-year-old fillies, as an omen after the 3-5 Brandy’s Girl stopped to a walk and suffered her first defeat after two one-sided victories to open her career.

Brandy’s Girl finished a distant sixth and last behind Ballet Diva, who rallied to a two-length tally over Dad’s Kiddo with Fabulous Dream a well-beaten third.  The win was the fourth in six starts and third stakes success for Ballet Diva, a homebred daughter of Hear No Evil, who is owned by Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold.

Ballet Diva ran six furlongs in 1:11.96 and paid $4.80.

“As long as it’s one turn, we’ll be okay,” said Gold. “She just showed me now she doesn’t need the lead.”

Ballet Diva will likely be pointed for the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream on Jan. 2.

** Bella Flor rallied from well back to upset the 2-1 Royal Story – the sixth straight losing stakes favorite on the day – in the $75,000 Hut Hut Stakes for juvenile fillies. Bella Flor went the mile in a slow 1:42.66 and rewarded her backers with a $21.80 payoff.

Bella Flor, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Eurosilver, was ridden to victory by Mario Pino for trainer Ron Potts.