10/29/2003 12:00AM

NYRA board okays 2004 dates

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Aside from an extended Christmas break, the 2004 New York Racing Association schedule will be very similar to that of years past.

The association's board of trustees approved a schedule of 259 racing dates for next year - two fewer than in 2003. The schedule will include a nine-day break from Dec. 20 through Dec. 28. The schedule needs to be approved the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

Aqueduct's 2004 winter meet will include 49 scheduled days of racing over the inner track, from Jan. 1 through March 7. Racing moves to Aqueduct's main track for a 38-day spring stand lasting through May 2.

Belmont's 60-day spring-summer meet will begin on May 5 and run through July 25. Once again, Belmont plans to offer twilight racing (3 p.m. post) on Fridays during the spring and summer with the exception of June 4, the day before the Belmont Stakes, when post time will be 1 p.m.

Saratoga's 36-day meet will run from July 28 through Sept. 6 before racing returns to Belmont for a 33-day fall meet, beginning Sept. 10 and lasting through Oct. 24. Finally, Aqueduct's 43-day fall meet will run from Oct. 27 through Dec. 31.

NYRA was expected to release on Thursday the 2004 stakes schedule for Aqueduct's winter-spring meets.