07/26/2006 12:00AM

Yavapai: 'Estrelita' gets stakes


Estrelita D' Cielo continued her ascent at Yavapai on Monday, when she won the $15,000 Willow Lake Handicap at a mile. A 5-year-old mare, Estrelita D' Cielo was facing cheap restricted claimers as recently as April at Turf Paradise, but her form has surged lately and she is now a stakes winner.

After winning three straight, Estrelita D' Cielo finished fifth in an optional claimer here June 20. She bounced back in the Willow Lake, however, getting a nice stalking trip. She steadily advanced going to the far turn, took the lead into the lane, and drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths under Jocelyne Kenny. Owned and trained by F.C. Frazier, Estrelita D'Cielo covered the mile in 1:37.60 and paid $9.20 as the second choice. The winner's share of $8,250 pushed her career earnings to $31,880 from six wins in 15 starts.

Tinners Time stalked the pace early on and took a clear lead on the far turn and into the lane, but she had no answer for Estrelita D' Cielo's charge and finished second. Dr. Don's Promise rallied to finish third. Along Came Jones, the 5-2 favorite, got off slowly after being knocked around at the start and had too much to overcome, finishing fourth in the field of nine.

* Turf Paradise announced a $6,000-guaranteed minimum purse for the upcoming racing season. The 156-day meet runs from Oct. 6 through May 6, 2007. Live racing will be conducted five days a week, usually Friday through Tuesday, and the track will be open seven days a week for simulcasting.

"Coming off our 50th anniversary season makes it a good time to raise purses," said track owner Jerry Simms. "All of our horsemen will benefit from this guaranteed bottom purse."