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Monday, March 31, 2014
Updated: April 6, 2:29 AM ET
Power Rankings: Hard Candy

By Gary West
Special to ESPN.com

Cairo Prince tumbled and Constitution rumbled in the Power Rankings, which underwent a dramatic revision this week. Cairo Prince had been a fixture atop the Power Rankings, sitting there quietly like Jabba The Hutt; but Saturday, without ever threatening, he finished fourth in the Florida Derby, where Constitution proclaimed himself a serious -- make that Serious -- player.

And so Cairo Prince drops to No. 10 and Constitution debuts at No. 4, in a tie with Tapiture. But Constitution isn't the only horse to make his Power Rankings debut this week. After winning the Louisiana Derby, a diminutive ball of volition named Vicar's In Trouble debuts at No. 8, in a tie with Wildcat Red.

Here's what you have to know about the Florida Derby -- 48.19 seconds. The opening half-mile was so slow it was almost poached. The half-mile splits in the other two-turn races Saturday at Gulfstream Park were 47.67 seconds, 47.00 seconds, 47.67 seconds and 47.55 seconds. Even maidens were more hurried in their opening statement than Wildcat Red, who was able to stroll away languidly and unchallenged.

From there, he had to win, right? Granted this wasn't the speed-biased drag strip that encouraged him to zip into the Fountain of Youth -- Saturday's Gulfstream surface was much different. Still, he was given an early lead and a long moment to saunter before being challenged.

What followed from there was predictable -- General A Rod couldn't get by the leader and Cairo Prince, looking more like a thin Jabba The Hut with each passing marker, couldn't make up any ground. Yes, it was all so predicable -- well, more or less predictable, except for one thing: Constitution shot through an opening and ran the final three-eighths of a mile in 36.76 seconds. Charging into that promenade of a pace, he made up two lengths and beat Wildcat Red by a neck.

That was impressive. A little rank early, Constitution quickly learned to control his speed, accepting the priorities of his rider, Javier Castellano; and then the handsome son of Tapit displayed both courage and determination in the stretch. Beyond the wire, after completing the 1 ⅛ miles in 1:49.16, he galloped out strongly, propelled by eagerness.

Yes, Constitution has raced only three times in his career; he didn't start as a 2-year-old. And, yes, no Kentucky Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 was unraced as a juvenile. But Apollo Schamallo, Constitution just might be good enough.

1. Candy Boy

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
J. Sandler
6--2-2-0
10
139
2

Candy Boy

Even without racing, Candy Boy seemingly has everything going his way, which is in a positive direction. As his trainer, John Sandler, said, everything has "gone according to schedule," including the colt's most recent workout. Saturday at Santa Anita, Candy Boy worked three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.80, a sharp move by any standard but especially in this case, since he blew away his workmate. With Hall of Famer Gary Stevens riding, Candy Boy reportedly started about five lengths back and finished about four in front of Prospector Alley, who was credited with 1:13.60. Candy Boy galloped out seven-eighths of a mile in 1:26, according to private clocker Gary Young. A week earlier, Candy Boy worked three-quarters in 1:12.80. And just as a reminder, when he won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, he easily defeated Chitu and Midnight Hawk, who subsequently finished 1-2 in the Sunland Derby. So Candy Boy will enter Saturday's Santa Anita Derby on something of a roll, but he must transcribe that momentum into a good effort if he's to race for the roses because he needs points.


2. California Chrome

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
A. Sherman
9--5-1-0
50
132
3

California Chrome

But no 3-year-old in the country is riding a bigger wave of momentum than California Chrome. He has won three consecutive stakes by a total of 19 lengths, including the recent San Felipe by more than seven. He has speed, determination and more than a little style. He also worked Saturday, going a half-mile in 46.40 seconds at Los Alamitos. His veteran trainer, Art Sherman, said the flashy Cal-bred "looked sharp" and "did it all by himself." Meanwhile, Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White said he intends to make California Chrome the morning-line favorite for the Santa Anita Derby. White pointed out that among the individual betting interests in the most recent Derby Future Pool, California Chrome was a slight favorite. White described California Chrome's San Felipe performance as the best this season in California by a 3-year-old.


3. Samraat

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
R. Violette
5--5-0-0
60
87
5

Samraat

Samraat worked another mile Friday in 1:44.05 at Palm Meadows in Florida; six days earlier he worked a mile in 1:45.15. That's his routine, slow mile works, and it's obviously proving to be successful for him. (Prediction: If Samraat wins the Kentucky Derby, next year everybody will start using slow one-mile workouts to prepare for the roseate run.) A week before he won the Gotham, he worked a mile at Palm Meadows in 1:45. And before he won the Withers, he had back-to-back mile workouts. He has been training in Florida simply to avoid missing any time because of the weather, but the unbeaten King of Queens has returned to New York to take aim at Saturday's Wood Memorial.


4T. Tapiture

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
S. Asmussen
6--2-2-2
42
78
4

Tapiture

Tapiture worked a bullet five-eighths (1:00.80) of a mile Monday at Oaklawn Park in preparation for next week's Arkansas Derby. He's another who seems to have momentum on his side. He entered the Rebel Stakes after consecutive stakes victories, and although he finished second, he demonstrated admirable determination by overcoming a bad trip that included considerable bumping in the stretch. A late foal, he actually will turn 3 on May 3, Derby Day.


4T. Constitution

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
T. Pletcher
3--3-0-0
100
78
NR

Constitution

His Florida Derby performance might have been even more impressive than it looked: He ran down a horse, Wildcat Red, who loves Gulfstream Park and got away with a comfortable lead in the slowest opening half-mile of the day. A long-striding son of Tapit, Constitution is within reach of the sort of performance that might win the Kentucky Derby. But can he overcome his inexperience? It has been 132 years since a horse that hadn't raced as a juvenile won the Kentucky Derby, and Apollo's victory in 1882 has always been regarded as the lightning bolt that'll never strike twice. But it's going to strike again, and maybe this year, when the "sons" of Apollo seem especially strong.


6. Hoppertunity

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
B. Baffert
4--2-0-0
55
71
7

Hoppertunity

Like Constitution, Hoppertunity has advanced quickly and far. He, too, began the year as an unraced maiden, and three months later, with a hard-fought victory in the Rebel Stakes packed away among his luggage, he has become a prominent traveler on the road to the Kentucky Derby. He worked an easy five-eighths of a mile Sunday in 1:01.20 at Santa Anita, and rather than return to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby, he's going to remain home and challenge Candy Boy and California Chrome. And why not? After all, Hoppertunity doesn't need any qualifying points; on the other hand, his stable mate Bayern does. He'll make the trip to Arkansas, according to their Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert.


7. Intense Holiday

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
T. Pletcher
8--2-1-1
93
54
6

Intense Holiday

In finishing second Saturday in the Louisiana Derby, Intense Holiday took a step backwards from his earlier victory in the Risen Star Stakes. Perhaps he was too close to the early pace -- less than two lengths back after the opening half-mile, compared to six back after a much slower opening half in the Risen Star -- or maybe the performance was the result of a mental error (he ducked in after turning into the stretch and nearly hit the inner rail). Either way, he'll need to recover his best form and step forward if he's to threaten in Kentucky. If he can do that, it wouldn't be shocking: Since 2000, Super Saver, Mine That Bird, Street Sense, Giacomo, Funny Cide and Monarchos all lost their final start before going to Kentucky and winning the Derby.


8T. Vicar's In Trouble

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
M. Maker
5--3-0-2
120
36
NR

Vicar's In Trouble

He doesn't have the physical gifts of some of these horses, but Vicar's In Trouble has qualities that frequently get him into the winner's circle, including imperceptible virtues such as courage and intelligence. In his five-race career now, he has lost only once on dirt, and that was in the Risen Star, where he had an outside post position, didn't break sharply and had to race wide throughout. But still he finished third. Given the opportunity to play his game in the Louisiana Derby, he seized it: He took the lead at the start, and then he turned back in succession each and every challenger until he was clear in mid-stretch. He's not the most talented horse included here in the Power Rankings, but he might be the most admirable. And for the moment, he's the points leader on the way to Kentucky.


8T. Wildcat Red

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
J. Garoffalo
7--4-3-0
90
36
9

Wildcat Red

Handed the Florida Derby on a silver salver, he dropped it. Nobody seriously challenged him early, and from his inside post position he was able to cruise through an opening half-mile in 48.19 seconds. To maintain his advantage, he didn't have to shave 24 seconds for a quarter-mile until the third quarter, where he stepped up the pace slightly with 23.81, to complete three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.00. And from there he couldn't win? To his credit, he held second, and, yes, he fought determinedly, but his performance in the Florida Derby seriously questions his ability to win at longer distances. He won the Fountain of Youth on an absurdly speed-biased surface, but when the track didn't routinely hand out winner's circle passes to speedsters, he couldn't win, not even after dawdling fractions.


10. Cairo Prince

Trainer
Starts--W-P-S
Derby Pts.
ESPN.com Pts.
Last Week
K. McLaughlin
5--3-1-0
24
34
1

Cairo Prince

In less than two minutes, Cairo Prince might have gone from Derby favorite to Derby observer. With only 24 qualifying points, he might not even get into the starting gate on May 3. Actually, though, all things considered -- the nine weeks off and the slow fractions and the wide trip -- he ran well in the Florida Derby, even though he finished fourth, about 3 ½ lengths back. When he won the Holy Bull Stakes so easily, by nearly six lengths, Cairo Prince looked dominant, but it was an illusion. In truth, he was the only horse that bothered. And so in the Florida Derby, when he met a stronger group, his chances collapsed under an avalanche of reality.

Also receiving votes: Social Inclusion (29), Bayern (23), Chitu (16), Strong Mandate (14), Ring Weekend (8), Toast Of New York (7), Bobby's Kitten (6), Conquest Titan (6), We Miss Artie (6), General A Rod (5), Uncle Sigh (5), Albano (3), Commissioner (2), Ride On Curlin (2), Tonalist (2).


To see how our experts voted, please click here.

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