08/23/2006 12:00AM

Early season has guarantee on pick fours


ALBANY, Calif. - Golden Gate Fields steps into the future Friday when it begins its 36-day fall meeting.

The 2006 allocation of racing dates gave the track late summer and early fall dates for the first time in its history, and the track's general manager, Robert Hartman, is unveiling new wagering and promotional opportunities in hopes of attracting fans not used to live racing here in August and September.

Historically, the early fall dates have been run at Bay Meadows.

Golden Gate will offer a $50,000 guaranteed pick four on the first four races every Sunday. It is the first such guaranteed wagering promotion offered on a sustained basis in northern California.

Hartman said the choice of Sunday for the guarantee was made in part so the pick fours will not conflict with the numerous National Thoroughbred Racing Association wagering promotions offered on Saturdays during the fall.

To help start the guaranteed pick fours, Golden Gate Fields will offer a "dollar day" promotion on Sunday. General parking, general admission, programs, beer, soda, and some food will cost $1.

The track will offer a second such promotion on Saturday, Oct. 7.

On Labor Day the track will run the Grade 3, $150,000 Berkeley Handicap, the meet's biggest stakes. In addition, the track will give away beach towels, hold a beer festival, and host activities for children that include pony rides and a petting zoo.

Because the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to the East Bay will be closed for construction work that weekend, Golden Gate Fields has worked with Bay Area Rapid Transit and is providing shuttles from specified BART stations to the track.

Labor Day will also culminate the first of three rounds of the Daily Racing Form Handicappers' Challenge for $5,000 in prize money and qualification to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas in January.

The first of nine stakes during the meet will be run Saturday, with 14 fillies and mares nominated to the $50,000-added Marina at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Six runners, including the stakes winner Katdogawn, are expected, with several other possibles.

Friday's opener, as well as next Friday's racing, will begin with a special 3:15 p.m. post to coordinate with Del Mar's late-afternoon post. Post time during the Del Mar meeting through Sept. 6 will then be 1:45 p.m., with a 12:45 p.m. post the remainder of the meet.

At a glance:

RACING SCHEDULE: 36 days - Aug. 25-Oct. 15 (dark Mondays and Tuesdays, except Aug. 28, Sept. 4, Oct. 9; Oct. 4-5, Oct. 11-12).

POST TIME: 1:45 p.m. Aug. 26-Sept. 6; 12:45 p.m. Sept. 8-Oct. 15; 3:15 p.m. Aug. 25, Sept. 1.

HIGHLIGHTS: Sept. 4, $150,000 G3 Berkeley Handicap

ADMISSIONS: $4 grandstand, $6 clubhouse, $8 Top of the Stretch, $10 turf club (weekdays), $15 turf club (weekends and holidays).

PARKING: $4 general, $8 valet.

LOCATION: 1100 Eastshore Hwy., Berkeley, CA 94710.

PHONE: (510) 559-7300

INTERNET: www.goldengatefields.com