HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 23, 2014—The positioning in advance of Saturday’s entrance into the final round of playoffs for the big dance is over now that Saturday’s Spriral Stakes and Sunday’s Sunland Derby is in the books.

Wish I knew what to make of Turfway Park’s Polytrack bonanza. We Miss Artie picked up all the pieces with Johnny Velazquez, timing the last run exquisitely. The runnerup did most of the hard work chasing throughout, staying very well before getting tagged right at the wire.

Show finisher Coastline looked the part of a winner every step of the last half-mile of the 9 furlongs, sitting perfectly from close range outside, having things unfold for his benefit but disappointingly did not kick on to win, hanging badly through the final furlong.

The winner should have little difficulty getting 10 furlongs in six weeks but his problem is two-fold: can he get there fast enough on a dirt surface. And, thus far, he hasn’t been the same horse on anything other than grass or all-weather surfaces.

It’s easier to get a read on the Sunday’s Sunland Derby on dirt, and the 9-furlong time of 1:47.88 was two-fifths of a second off the track record. It was won on the pace by the speedy, classy stalker Chitu, who outlasted stablemate Midnight Hawk.

There’s a two-fold problem here as well: speed was deadly at Sunland on Sunday and his stablemate simply doesn’t finish what he starts in two-turn events. The surface carried Chitu home with Martin Garcia asking him for his life in the final furlong.

What the Kentucky Derby’s race shape doesn’t need at this point is another serious horse that races on or near the early lead. Of course, if the closer’s aren’t fast enough…

As a result, there wasn’t much shake-up in the HRI Power 10 this week except that California-based three-year-olds occupy three of the top five slots.

By Saturday nigh, however, we figure to be looking at a whole different ballgame. Finally, we’re approaching to the races that truly matter.

There certainly will be changes next week as half of the Power 10 is very likely to see action including Cairo Prince who has dominated the top position since the poll was first conducted five weeks ago.

Cairo Prince will almost certainly stamp himself the Derby favorite with a victory in Saturday’s Florida Derby, a position that only would be strengthened should Intense Holiday add the Louisiana Derby to his Risen Star triumph.

As colleague Tom Jicha noted last week, the 2014 sophomore class is still seeking a horse capable of stringing together back-to-back graded stakes; thus far there have been 17 graded events each boasting a different hero.

The HRI Kentucky Derby Power 10, Week 5

1. Cairo Prince (36)
2. Candy Boy (26)
3. Tapiture (22)
4. (tie) California Chrome (18)
4. (tie) Hoppertunity (18)
6. Intense Holiday (12)
7. Wildcat Red (10)
8. Samraat (8)
9. General A Rod (7)
10. Strong Mandate (5)


The HRI Power 10 is a consensus of HRI staffers and contributors, written by John Pricci