05/05/2004 12:00AM

Twilight programs begin


ELMONT, N.Y. - Local handicappers can sleep in on Friday with the start of twilight racing at Belmont Park. Every Friday at the spring meet, with the exception of June 4, post time for the opener will be 3 p.m. Eastern, two hours later than usual.

Three turf races were drawn on the nine-race card, but with an iffy forecast there is no certainty those races will remain on the grass.

The eighth-race feature, a first-level allowance race for 3-year-olds and up, drew nine runners and is carded for 1 1/4 miles over the inner turf. , an easy winner of his career debut last month at Gulfstream Park, was entered main-track only and is the pick if the race is switched to the main track.

, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled, is the likely favorite despite having been beaten as the choice in his last start on April 24 at Aqueduct. Rayon, making his first start since Oct. 5, finished seventh in the 1 1/8-mile turf race after being stopped cold in traffic early in the stretch.

When Rayon, who is trained by Bill Mott, last ran at Belmont, he finished a close-up third in a 1 1/4-mile race.

Since his last race, Rayon worked half-mile in 49.71 seconds over Belmont's training track on Monday.

Jerry Bailey rides Rayon, who drew post 6.

Trainer Sanna Hendriks, better known for her excellent work with steeplechase horses, has a two-horse entry of Acrostic and Capital Peak.

looks like the stronger half of the coupling and appears to be the biggest threat to Rayon in this field. A Maria's Mon gelding, Acrostic finished a closing second in a 1 1/8-mile turf race at Aqueduct on April 24. It was Acrostic's first race since Oct. 22 and his second start on the turf.

The only knock against is that he hasn't run since winning a 1 3/8-mile maiden race on the turf at Belmont in October 2002.

Darghan, a maiden winner in Ireland, has lost two starts in this country as the favorite. Darghan's lone win came at seven furlongs, and his ability to get a distance is at question.

Ballerina's Halo has lost his last five starts at this level.

Pleasant Signal won a $30,000 claimer at Gulfstream Park on April 8. Falconer is the likely pacesetter from the rail. Gold Explorer has been badly beaten in his last several starts. Augusttown Maxi, who has never run on the turf, gets blinkers on.