03/25/2009 12:00AM

Dunkirk may have some help


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A field of nine - eight horses and one rabbit - was drawn Wednesday for Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Trainer Todd Pletcher entered two horses for 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby - his highly regarded Kentucky Derby prospect Dunkirk, and Europe, a maiden with only one start who was entered as a possible pacesetter. Both Dunkirk and Europe are owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier.

The undefeated Dunkirk drew post 4 and is expected to go postward the favorite under Garrett Gomez. Europe, a $2.6 million yearling purchase by Unbridled's Song, will break from post 8 if he starts, with Chris DeCarlo aboard. Should both Pletcher runners compete, they will be separate betting interests.

"After looking at the probable entries it appeared there was no speed in the field, and we didn't want to face a situation where Quality Road was allowed to set comfortable fractions," said Pletcher of his reason for entering Europe. "He's going to be tough enough to beat under the best of situations, which is why we put Europe in there to assure there is some pace in the race. We'll look the field over and make the final call on race day. Even though Europe didn't run well the first time out, he's worked 58 and 4 in company with Roundhouse, and Roundhouse couldn't get by him. So if he does run, I think he'll go over and give a good performance."

Quality Road figures to be a close second choice in the wagering, coming off an impressive victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth for which he earned a 113 Beyer Speed Figure. Quality Road drew post 2 and will again be ridden by John Velazquez.

Theregoesjojo is the third member of the field expected to attract plenty of mutuel support. Theregoesjojo finished second in the Fountain of Youth after opening his 3-year-old campaign by defeating Quality Road going seven furlongs under allowance conditions on Jan. 10.

The remainder of the Florida Derby lineup, in post position order, is Toby the Coal Man, Casey's on Call, Sincero, Danger to Society, and Stately Character.

The starting lineup for the Grade 1 event did not include Beethoven, who was injured and withdrawn from consideration for the race earlier that morning by his trainer, John Ward.

Casey's on Call, a former claimer, and Danger to Society were considered surprise entrants.

Trainer Rick Dutrow said earlier this week he would only run Danger to Society in the Florida Derby if at least one of the favorites did not start.