Gold and Roses faces just four foes in Sunday's Gravesend Handicap (gr. III).

Gold and Roses faces just four foes in Sunday's Gravesend Handicap (gr. III).

Coglianese Photos

Gold and Roses Likes Inner Track

Gold and Roses and Ferocious Fires are among five entered in the Gravesend.

by Karen M. Johnson

Veteran Gold and Roses has a good chance of extinguishing younger rival Ferocious Fires’ quest to remain undefeated in the $100,000 Gravesend Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Dec. 16.

The six-furlong Gravesend is the final graded stakes in New York this year. Following the Dec. 16 card, Aqueduct will be closed for a nine-day holiday break, with racing returning Dec. 26.

Ferocious Fires and Joey P. are the 117-pound highweights in the five-horse field.

Gold and Roses, a winner of more than $700,000, is an inner-track specialist, with three wins and three runner-up finishes on the winterized surface. A 5-year-old gelded son of deceased New York sire Gold Token, Gold and Roses’ lone win from nine starts this year, came in the restricted John A. Morrissey Stakes at Saratoga, a race he won last year.

Running as the favorite in the restricted Thunder Rumble Stakes at Aqueduct Nov. 11, Gold and Roses finished second, beaten a length by Stunt Man, who returned to win an overnight stakes by open lengths at Aqueduct Dec. 14. Gold and Roses’ trainer, Tom Bush, removed the blinkers the gelding had been wearing for the majority of his 31 career starts in the Thunder Rumble. The blinkers will remain off in the Gravesend.

“It was kind of a risky move, but he is an older horse, so he knows what he is doing,” said Bush, who has trained Gold and Roses throughout his career for Henry Gregory. “He got beat by a nice 3-year-old (Stunt Man), and maybe if we received a different trip, we could have won. We were inside, and we had pressure on us from the outside.”

Bush said Gold and Roses “is a throwback. He is a big, big strong horse and is in great shape. The way he makes it so easy, if they all were like that, we would have the game down.”

Eibar Coa, aboard in the Thunder Rumble, retains the mount. Gold and Roses, a winner of three races and three runner-up finishes from six starts on the inner track, drew post four.

Ferocious Fires is undefeated in six starts for trainer Tony Dutrow, breeder Sanford Goldfarb, and Goldfarb’s partners, Ira Davis and William Vidro.

Ferocious Fires, a 4-year-old New York-bred, is a son of grade I winner Lite the Fuse, who was trained by Dutrow’s father, Richard. He won his last start via a disqualification in the restricted Hudson Handicap at Belmont Park Oct. 20.

In the Hudson, Ferocious Fires finished second, beaten a neck by Stormin Normandy, who was disqualified for impeding Ferocious Fires in the stretch. Stormin Normandy is trained by Dutrow’s brother, Rick.

The Hudson was Ferocious Fires’ first start in 49 weeks, and was preceded by five wins, including a seven-length romp in a state-bred maiden race on Aqueduct’s inner track in February 2006. The colt had not raced since winning the restricted Mr. Leader Stakes on Aqueduct’s main track in November 2006. Dutrow said Ferocious Fires was sidelined with a hind ankle injury.

Ferocious Fires will be ridden by Alan Garcia from post three.

Dutrow also entered Pavo, who is not coupled in the wagering with Ferocious Fires. Pavo makes his first start for Dutrow, who claimed the 5-year-old son of Marquetry for $75,000 in his last start, in which he finished third at Belmont Sept. 19.

Joey P. certainly cannot be overlooked in this spot. He is coming off a game second to the up-and-coming Grand Champion in the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct Nov. 12. P. Kerney enters the Gravesend off a four-length victory at Laurel Park Nov. 21.