07/11/2006 11:00PM

Saratoga to hold twilight card

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Saratoga Race Course will experiment with a twilight racing program on Friday, Sept. 1. First post for the nine-race card will be 3 p.m. Normal post for a weekday card at Saratoga is 1 p.m. New York Racing Association officials are trying this based on some success the twilight Fridays have had during the Belmont summer meet. Saratoga's admission gates will open at noon on Sept. 1, and there will be happy hour food and drink specials beginning at 5 p.m.

"We have enjoyed great success in recent weeks with Friday twilight racing at Belmont Park and decided the Friday of Labor Day weekend is a great opportunity to adopt this strategy at Saratoga," said Bill Nader, senior vice president of the NYRA. "It provides tourists with a final chance to return to Saratoga, arrive in time for Friday racing and then stay in town for a power-packed lineup of quality stakes over closing weekend. Plus, the later post time should get local fans motivated to attend the kickoff to their last Saratoga racing weekend of the season and have some fun with twilight racing."

Closing weekend at Saratoga is bolstered by the addition of the Grade 1 Woodward - traditionally run at Belmont - on Sept. 2 as well as the return of Grade 1 events for 2-year-olds the Spinaway (Sept. 3) and Hopeful (Sept. 4). Nader declined to speculate whether this could be a prelude to a summer full of twilight programs next year at Saratoga. "We're just going to take it one step at a time," he said. "Hopefully, we'll have good weather to judge whether it's a success or a failure."

In other Saratoga news, season passes for the meet will be on sale Monday through Friday next week at the NYRA customer service office at Saratoga from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Grandstand season passes are $35, while clubhouse passes are $75. Daily admission prices are $3 for the grandstand and $5 for the clubhouse.