OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Ferocious Fires looks to be the stronger of the two horses trainer Tony Dutrow entered in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct. But an unsettled forecast may prompt Dutrow to keep that undefeated New York-bred colt in the barn and leave Pavo as his only starter in the six-furlong race.
A nor'easter is forecast for Sunday, which at the very least will make Aqueduct's inner track sloppy and at most could force the third cancellation of the winter meet. Given Ferocious Fires' history of infirmities, Dutrow said he likely would not run him on a wet track. Ferocious Fires, who injured a hind suspensory earlier this year, returned off a lengthy layoff to win the Hudson Handicap - albeit via disqualification - at Belmont on Oct. 20 to make him 6 for 6.
Dutrow claimed Pavo for $75,000 from Ernie Paragallo's Paraneck Stable on Sept. 19, but has yet to run him. Pavo has won 5 of 30 career starts, including three victories over the inner track.
"I claimed him because he's a fast horse, he's a nice horse, he can be managed better, and he absolutely loves the inner track," Dutrow said. "He's doing fantastic. I hope Pavo runs as well for us as he did for Ernie. I have every reason to think Pavo will run a very good race in the Gravesend."
Ramon Dominguez will ride Pavo from the outside post in the five-horse field. Ferocious Fires will break from post 3 under Alan Garcia.
Joey P. has won 13 of 26 starts and is coming off two second-place finishes, in the Monmouth University Stakes at Monmouth Park and the Fall Highweight over Aqueduct's main track. He should be in a stalking position from post 2 under Joe Bravo.
"He's really big," trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said. "He's probably close to 17 hands. When he breaks, it takes him a little bit longer to get going. You take a little hold of him and let him get his stride going."
Gold and Roses and P. Kerney are likely to vie for the early lead. Gold and Roses has not sprinted on the inner track since he won a maiden race nearly three years ago. He is coming off a second-place finish to Stunt Man in a New York Stallion Stakes race last month. Stunt Man won an overnight stakes here Friday.
After Sunday, Aqueduct will go on a 10-day hiatus, reopening on Dec. 26.