At last, after three months of wonderful racing, the talking is about to stop, and many of the globe's finest horses will fight out the honours on World Cup night. A glittering occasion as a spectacle, with the horses and indeed plenty prize-money to do it full justice.

It's impossible for flat racing afficianados not to salivate, and although I'm penning this on Tuesday, (updated Thursday), already everyone is talking up their fancy's chances. Eleven American raiders plus a smattering of exciting runners from the East and other parts of the World have been magnetized to this special evening. Around 40 Group One winners were declared last week for the meeting.

Of course winners are going to be extremely difficult to find with so many top horses taking each other on and primed for the day, but I do have a few strong views. I do hope that the early week rains give way to good ground and we don't have too many tactical races.

Happily the Cheltenham Nap, the majestic Our Conor, ended a mixed week on a positive note, it would be lovely if we can deliver this weekend, after what I hope readers feel has been a successful and profitable Carnival. 

1.10. Godolphin Mile

The Nap comes in the very first thoroughbred race of the day. I 'row in' (sorry!) with SURFER e/w (12/1 Bet 365 1/4 odds). Edit Saturday morning Corals and Boylesports now best price at 9/1, still very good value in my opinion!

Considering that Hunters Light is competing for favouritism in the World Cup at the other end of the card, this horse's two goods runs behind it make it the clear form pick here and the price has much to do with the nap vote, it's plain wrong in my view. Three of the market principals have poor double figure draws, while Surfer is beautifully placed in six. Led off the home turn in both his runs this season and the drop back to a mile is what the doc ordered. The two runs were two of the best form races of the entire Carnival and Surfer has some excellent speed figures in the book.
 
Soft Falling Rain heads the market, but I'm not sure where any improvement will come from now. Won both starts, but was spot on for the Guineas and that was the horse's target, and day. Moonwalk in Paris is progressive and (considered by connections) a specialist miler, but difficult to believe is quite in this class and stall 15 is a horror. Master of Hounds is a model of consistency and can make the frame, but I'm with Surfer.
Red Jazz and Time Prisoner can both go well at a price and the latter was a winning nap for the blog earlier in the campaign, but this is tougher.

1.45 Gold Cup.

One of three races I don't have a strong view on. I'm wary of O'Brien horses this early in the year, so Imperial Monarch is not for me. Ahzeemah is tough and consistent, gaining a well deserved success last time, when Saddler's Rock (a class act) was a big eyecatcher staying on late from the rear. An even bigger eyecatcher that day was Tenenbaum. I couldn't decide whether the horse wasn't helping Mikhail Barzalona, or (genuinely) if it was the other way round... Seismos might find this too tough, but is an interesting contender, while Cavalryman will have come on for its run last time. Star Empire is another with a similar chance from the Ahzeemah race, but there are eight races and this is one where I'm not inspired to have a bet. 

For anyone that must, Cavalryman should run its race, can come on for the recent run, and make the frame.


2.20 UAE Derby.

The second of the races I'm not big on. Secret Number was keen and having only its second career start, yet despite covering over 20 metres further than the second, won really well last time and must hold a tremendous chance. Is going to go off very short and this run comes quickly after that fine performance. There's a proper niggle that the horse might not get away with being so keen a second time though. Clearly hugely talented and might be an English Guineas chance, might win this standing on its head, but of all the races tonight, this equally might be one of the more vulnerable favourites. 
I'm not keen on Lines of Battle, having already mentioned my concerns about O'Brien horses in March (if the O'Brien team have a good day, i almost certainly don't, so i might even cover their runners in a tiny multiple as cover, but i just can't see it happening for Coolmore this time round) and he mentioned the other day the whole string is behind this year after a rough winter. Not sure how long this horse has been in Dubai but prepared to take it on.

Last time out, Mike De Kock said that EMOTIF (e/w 50/1 Bet365 1/4 odds) was about four weeks behind in her work. He said it before the race, which i always prefer as a punter! That was three weeks ago.... (feel a song coming on!). Yes, I can do the maths, so this still might come quick for this daughter of Giant's Causeway, however that race might well have brought the horse on again a bit further and could just make the frame in what is far from a vintage renewal. She can't beat Secret Number on that run, but three weeks plus that run might well make a big difference for a horse that was behind in its work.
Shuruq also has very solid frame claims, while Elleval is another in the overpriced category.


3.05 Al Quoz Sprint.

I'm hoping SHEA SHEA (7/4 generally) will be one of the Stars of the night. Beat Sole Power decisively and several others of these, and even though Ed Lynam's charge is entitled to come on for the run, I expect a similar outcome. The speed figure was excellent. Make no mistake though, this is a proper Group One sprint and in these races things can go wrong. Eagle Regiment has reportedly had a minor hoof issue in recent days, but is a worthy opponent if fully geared up, while Varsity was singled out by Mike De Kock as a threat on the back of a sensational speed figure in the States, so 20/1 is definitely worth a second look. Dux Scholar, previously a capable middle distance horse, blitzed a strong field off a mad pace here earlier in the Carnival and if getting a really strong gallop to run at, could easily cause a shock.
Russian Soul hasn't been out the frame in ten outings, but this is really tough and might have to settle for fourth or fifth.

3.45 Golden Shaheen:

One standout horse here I feel. MENTAL (NB) defeated a good field last time including a few of these, and Kavanagh, who looked magnificent in the paddock that day, went on to win next time out. Stall 10 is wider than ideal it must be said but even worse drawn are potential threats Krypton Factor (last year's winner) and the well talked up Private Zone. That might mean a bit of a wild finish but Mental was very tough last time, despite giving the impression of 'blowing up' a touch close home, and if getting first run, will be hard to pass. 
ReynaldotheWizard has made tremendous progress this season and Trinniberg is hard to weigh up but from a good draw could take advantage if the principals get in each other's way out wide.


4.40 Dubai Duty Free.

The final of the races where I've no strong opinion. Sajjhaa has been an absolute revelation, winning three off the spin, and there's no reason why this horse shouldn't run another big race. Few excuses for those in behind even though Igugu could come on again for that second start. Another sure to come on for its last start is Breeders Cup hero LITTLE MIKE e/w around 8/1. That win last autumn was top class and a good run would be a pointer towards the likes of Shareta and St Nicholas Abbey in the Classic. 
Ocean Park is another respected overseas raider, but the danger looks to be Trade Storm. Confirmed a remarkable speed figure two runs ago was no fluke when following up last time, but stall 14 is a stinker and Little Mike gets the very marginal vote. Minimum stake race, no surprise if the winner is in double figures.

Mike De Kock has said that in homework Igugu is better than The Apache "every day of the week"!

5.15 Sheema Classic.

It's great to see Japan Cup winner GENTILDONNA here and is another really strong favourite. Just beat Orfevre there after a barging match (pair clear) inside the final furlong. Both had appalling draws that day (Orfevre fans won't want to hear that phrase, after the Arc) and Gentildonna showed a great attitude that day. Will be many people's banker of the night here. However, a filly after a break has to have some sort of a question mark and though she is my idea of the winner, there's likely to be value elsewhere too.

St Nicholas Abbey, and Shareta, may well have mid season targets, while Prince Bishop and Await the Dawn (beaten in a farce of a race last time) might just find this company a step too far, admirable performers though both are. It's the former of the pair that I prefer.


PRINCE BISHOP (e/w 25/1) has been largely ignored in the market, yet two strong thirds behind Hunters Light merit genuine respect and the return to 12f holds no fears whatever, 2 from 3 at the trip, and if there's to be a shock, I think he provides it. Await the Dawn has a poorer draw, and is less versatile tactically of the pair, as we saw last time. Apart from Surfer, Prince Bishop (hopefully someone will go 33s, plenty 25/1 available) is my e/w play of the day.

Am also expecting to see a very different Trailblazer from last time, and is another foreign raider to consider.

6.05 WORLD CUP.

This is it then. Last year Monterosso won a farcical race, beating a race fit Capponi by a comfortable 3 lengths. The latter reopposes but takes to the track for the first time since. Gut feeling is that Capponi is here this time for a different reason, to ensure a proper pace. That will suit HUNTER'S LIGHT, who has proved versatile off muddling and strong paces this season and has drawn almost the plum stall in four. Still progressing and with a fantastic 'come home' (final furlong) time two outings ago is the most solid option in a race that I think is actually short on serious alternatives.

The chief threat is Animal Kingdom. Reportedly keen for a few days after arrival last week, but more settled in its work now, but can be a handful. However just hugely talented and despite the doubt which mood might prevail on Saturday, I rate this horse the danger to all. I'll do a reverse forecast with Hunter's Light for sure as I rate the pair clear of the field, though stall 12 is slightly unkind to the American raider.

I note that top clock judge, Andy Holding, well known to William Hill radio listeners, thinks Planteur is a serious player. Smashed the course record at Lingfield recently, so has to be respected, however I just can't have the horse on its overall form profile against these Tapeta Terrors! I can't get a handle on Royal Delta, though has a fine turn of foot and has to be respected, very much already is in the market. Must go better than last year, but has a lot of ground to make up on the principals, while Dullahan, a winner of three grade ones on synthetics, disappointed last time out but should come on for the run. African Story has Meydan figures of 1,3,1,1,1 so is another for calculations.

So it's Hunter's Light and Animal Kingdom (given a truly shocking ride last time in the States) to fight out the finish, a true run race this year, and the former to come out just on top in a thrilling finish to a Wonderful Carnival.

Huge thanks for looking in, I really mean that, and hope you will stay with the blog (new home hopefully during April, details will be on twitter) for the Flat Season.

MAIN BETS: 

1.10 SURFER; NAP, E/W (12/1) 1/4 odds Bet365. Taken Price. Edit; Wednesday morning only SportingOdds are left on the 12/1. Take it in my opinion. Friday 10/1 Ladbrokes
3.45 MENTAL NB (3/1). Friday 9/4 General
6.05 HUNTER'S LIGHT (9/2) and rev f/c with ANIMAL KINGDOM. Hunter's Light 7/2 Friday.

ALL OTHER BETS:

The 'Good' Favourites, lol! 
Win Singles and E/W Treble: (I couldn't blame anyone for putting SECRET NUMBER into this bet and an alternative is e/w fourfold as a result).

Note, Friday, all the favourites have shortened up, ahemmm, thanks bookies! 
Suspect they might 'appear' to drift on Saturday, it's illusory, be in no doubt, bookie games all week.....


3.05: SHEA SHEA (7/4) 5/4 Friday
3.45: MENTAL (3/1) NB 9/4 Friday
5.20 GENTILDONNA (15/8) 11/8 Friday

Small E/W Singles:

2.25: EMOTIF e/w 50/1
4.40: LITTLE MIKE e/w 8/1; 
4.40:ADDED Friday. SDS reportedly looking forward to SAJJHAA as his best ride of night. 8/1 good enough for me on back of three wins, also added e/w.
5.20: PRINCE BISHOP e/w 25/1.

If there is a placepot/jackpot, i'm looking at these below. Check which races are included if you play! Will be selecting some from this list, probably not all.

1). 6,13
2). 3,7
3). 6,7
4). 6,7,15
5). 7,10
6). 4,5
7). 4,8
8). 4,11,12.

Meydan, Dear Friend, Hurry Back!