Trainer Todd Pletcher says Dunkirk has little room for error in Saturday's Grade I Florida Derby. And to that end, he is offering his talented runner a little help.
Pletcher, who mentioned Tuesday he would consider running a rabbit for Dunkirk in the $750,000 race, made good on that Wednesday when Europe, a maiden son of Unbridled's Song, showed up in the entry box for the 11⁄8-mile race.
Dunkirk, unbeaten in two career starts, drew post No. 4 in the nine-horse field and was installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite. Quality Road, winner of the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes, will break from post No. 2 as the 2-1 second choice.
With no graded stakes earnings to his credit, Dunkirk needs to grab at least second place in the Florida Derby to have a shot at making it into the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.
Since Quality Road appeared to be the only speed in the race, Pletcher entered Europe — fourth in his only career start — to ensure honest fractions.
"I'd rather not see (Europe) in there, of course, but I don't think my horse will see one in front of him and tear after him," said Jimmy Jerkens, trainer of Quality Road. "He's fast, but I believe he's very ratable."
The Ken McPeek-trained Theregoesjojo, who defeated Quality Road in an allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 10, will break from post No. 6.
The Florida Derby lost one of its top contenders Wednesday morning when Grade II winner Beethoven was withdrawn because of an injury to his left front leg.
Desert Party ready for UAE
Wednesday also marked the post-position draw for Saturday's Dubai World Cup card at Nad al Sheba, including the $2 million UAE Derby for 3-year-olds.
Grade II winner Desert Party drew stall No. 5 in the 13-horse field and will be one of three horses owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing in the 1,800-meter race (about 1.1 miles).
"That is a good draw for Desert Party, who is ready and has come out of his last race very well," said Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He has improved this year, and we are looking forward to a big run from him."
Desert Party won the Grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga last July and defeated stablemate Regal Ransom by 43/4 lengths in the UAE 2000 Guineas on Feb. 12.
"We will wait and see how he runs on Saturday, but obviously we hope it will be good enough for the Kentucky Derby," said Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin.
Field set for World Cup
Grade I winner Well Armed and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Albertus Maximus both gained favorable posts Wednesday for the $6 million Dubai World Cup.
Albertus Maximus, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, drew stall No. 10 in the 14-horse field while WinStar Farm's Well Armed will start his run from post No. 7.
McLaughlin, a Lexington native, won the Dubai World Cup in 2007 with Invasor.
"It's hard to be as confident as we were with Invasor because Invasor was a great horse, but we are confident, and Albertus Maximus is doing very well," McLaughlin said. "We're very happy with the draw. We wanted to be outside of Well Armed as he's the speed in the race."
Hollywood can't commit to racing past 2009
ALBANY, Calif. — Hollywood Park will conduct its scheduled meeting this fall, but the storied racetrack's future could be in doubt beyond this year.
Track president Jack Liebau told the California Horse Racing Board that he was not in a position to commit to racing past 2009.
The Southern California track's owner recently unveiled plans to Inglewood city officials for a mixed-use development on the 238-acre property that would include a retail district, office space and nearly 3,000 residential units.
That prompted the board to ask Liebau if he could provide any assurances about the track's future.
"Yes, Hollywood Park will be conducting its fall meet," Liebau said without elaboration during the board's recent meeting at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.
Meanwhile, a representative of Magna Entertainment Corp. updated the board on the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, including motions on the possible sale of MEC-owned properties Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields.
Gregg Scoggins, MEC's national director of regulatory affairs, said a bankruptcy judge has already approved $13.4 million in debtor-in-possession financing, and the judge will consider motions to approve another $49 million on March 27.
He said MEC has proposed bidding and auctioning timetables that could lead to the sales of the racetrack properties in early August.