05/22/2008 12:00AM

Arizona racing shifts north

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It's that time of year in Arizona. The mercury has smashed through the triple-digit barrier and continues skyward. So if it's feeling like a blast furnace in Phoenix, that means the racing scene is headed an hour and a half north to Yavapai Downs, which opens its customary summer stand Saturday.

The meet runs 55 days through Sept. 2, with live racing on a Saturday-through-Tuesday basis. The track remains open for full-card simulcasting on dark days. There is no live racing at Yavapai on July 5-8, as the Arizona racing scene shifts for one week to the Coconino County Fair in nearby Flagstaff.

This marks the seventh meet for the relatively young facility. The mile track, located at the Yavapai County fairgrounds, was built to replace an aged and dilapidated Prescott Downs.

Snowbound Halo heads the $21,000 Gerry Howard Inaugural Handicap on Saturday. The six-furlong event for 3-year-olds and upward goes as race 8 on a nine-race card. Eleven were entered.

Snowbound Halo has rubbed elbows with some of the best sprinters on the Arizona circuit, and although he's raced only 10 times he has won five races. After running sixth in the Phoenix Gold Cup and seventh in the Coyote at Turf Paradise, he was off for a couple of months. He came back in an allowance race at Turf Paradise on May 2 and finished a game second, beaten a neck. Daniel Vergara rides Snowbound Halo, the 123-pound highweight.

Rule by Force hasn't run since finishing sixth in the Lost in the Fog for 2-year-olds at Turf Paradise on Dec. 29. He's won 2 of his 3 starts on this track, all last year. Miguel Hernandez rides.