05/24/2006 11:00PM

Horses head north, where weather is cool

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Arizona racing makes its annual migration north to Prescott Valley on Saturday as Yavapai Downs opens its doors for its sixth summer meeting. Racing concluded at Turf Paradise in Phoenix last Sunday, and Yavapai Downs, located about 1 1/2 hours north, kicks off its 60-day meet, with racing to be conducted through Sept. 5.

As temperatures begin to soar in the Phoenix area, the Prescott Valley area, located at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, remains cool. Yavapai Downs was inaugurated in 2001, replacing the old Prescott Downs.

The opening-day program has nine races, highlighted by the $20,000 Gerry Howard Inaugural Handicap. The six-furlong event, for 3-year-olds and upward, lured a field of nine, headed by Instantly.

A 6-year-old gelding owned by the Sandra Hall Trust and trained by Lyman Rollins, Instantly has done his best work at Yavapai, with 3 of his 4 wins having come there. He couldn't quite handle some of the top runners at Turf Paradise the last few months of 2005 and has been given time off since December. He's been working smartly for this return, including a bullet five-furlong move in 58.40 seconds at Turf Paradise last Saturday. Vince Guerra rides.

Instantly has a number of sharp rivals. Smokealicious comes off an easy win in the Silvey's Image at Turf Paradise last month, and My Cupid, the 120-pound highweight, was last seen facing some of the best sprinters in Arizona in the Grand Canyon at Turf Paradise on April 29.

Return of the King comes off a strong win over restricted claimers at Turf Paradise last month, and Wildpayday won 2 of his last 3 starts there. Motivo dueled for the lead and faltered in the Gerry Howard Memorial at Turf Paradise on May 2, but prior to that romped over claimers by more than six lengths, posting a career-best Beyer of 90. Motivo boasts a bullet three-furlong work in 34.20 seconds at Turf Paradise on May 16.

Lill's Fame comes off two romping wins over low-level claimers at Turf Paradise.

At a glance

RACING SCHEDULE: 60 days; Saturday through Sept. 5, Saturday through Tuesday; full-card simulcasting every day. No live racing July 1-4.

POST TIME: 1:10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 1:35 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

ADMISSIONS: Saturday and Sunday, $2.50; Monday and Tuesday, free.

SEATING: Apron (outdoors), free; clubhouse table, $10; box, $18.

PARKING: Free; RV space, $29 a night.

LOCATION: Highway 89A, northeast of Prescott Valley, a few miles West of I-17, about 1 1/2 hours north of Phoenix.

PHONE: (928) 775-8000

INTERNET: www.yavapaidownsatpv.com