Here at last! Red letter day on Thursday for the new surface as the new season of the Meydan Carnival gets underway. The blog will return with weekly previews for Meydan, not bets in every race (three selections on day one) but certainly attempting to find a few winners! Very excited to have it back to get me warmed up during what can be very quiet domestic midweek fare in January and February.

The first two or three weeks simply demand caution as there's always a lot of guesswork involved. DO PLEASE REMEMBER THIS IS AN AMATEUR BLOG. I do not pretend to 'Advise' anyone how to bet, your choice totally to bet or not ;). That won't stop me having some strong personal opinions along the way though, including today!.

Today's entry longer than the regular weekly contribution as I mull over some of the forthcoming Carnival issues, and subdivided... If you want to dodge the 'ramble', (most probably wise :) ) my picks are near the bottom of the page!

CARNIVAL PROLOGUE

Will Mike De Kock's string repeat previous sluggish starts to the Carnival?
Perhaps Charlie Appleby who had a clutch of first time winners that disappointed subsequently last year, will repeat the dose, or adopt a more gradual approach this time?

Which horses will take to the new dirt surface, and how will it ride under varying weather conditions?  What part will the draw play and will it prove profitable to be up with the pace (which early pre-Carnival indications suggest would be likely)?

And which dirt pedigrees will prove best to follow. Of course many are untried, so they equally might love or loathe it.
The surface poses questions, some of the kickback in the pre-Carnival races looked, dare I say, unsightly, not to say unpleasant for horse and rider.
 
Good to see trainers giving it the benefit of the doubt for now, but this first season will be a revealing time. However as a punter and huge Meydan fan, I would be wrong too not to give it a fair crack.

I am much less confident about betting on the dirt, but if patterns such as pedigree, draw bias or pace angles do emerge, then it should get more manageable. 

It does worry me though and i doubt as many horses will like it as liked Tapeta. That's almost inevitable in my opinion as it tends to be far less 'forgiving' to the horses.
The surface, in my opinion (not shared by all, I admit, though I've yet to read any other satisfactory explanation, plenty of flannel though!), was changed to try to attract more American runners over the season, it will be interesting to see if they come, even if offered 'incentives'.
Plenty English trainers represented this week, the fact is though, not a single American or Irish runner on the opening day will hardly have escaped the notice of those who make decisions over surface etc.

Will be interesting to see if we get full fields throughout the Carnival. (Just nine for the first Listed race of the season this Thursday, but the jury remains out).
I hope and expect mainly full fields given the number of horses entered, though the European contingent will be revealing in the next couple of months and we'll find out whether the hoped for Americans appear before the last three or four meetings, along with how the later Japanese (and Aussie?) arrivals fare. 

Anyway you get the idea about the difficulties of early season betting in particular... these and plenty other questions will dominate the early weeks (and beyond no doubt). A recent run has traditionally proved really beneficial in the first few weeks, and that's high on my list of priorities. Hopefully we'll see the same interesting 'night before' pricing from Paddy Power in particular, and be able to take advantage of a few ricks during the Carnival!

So no really strong bets on day one for me, though still been able to dig out what will hopefully be a nice Nap.(Penned on Tuesday, at a time when, at best, most layers will just be noticing that the card exists! :)

THURSDAY 8TH JANUARY

The 3.20 will have Meydan observers telling us the early clues, but don't get carried away whatever happens. The unexposed Almoonqith is a very interesting horse, though perhaps stablemate El Estruendoso will have earlier season targets. However Mike De Kock runs three (eleven on the card) and I think he will be more interested in getting a run into them than having specific early season aims.
I doubt if i will have a bet here, Though being by Dynaformer, Almoonqith is likely to enjoy the surface and would be my likeliest idea of the winner.

The second makes no punting appeal either, and Sir Maximilian, who ran so well in the Abbaye, would be only a token selection.

Faulkner is the really exciting runner in the 4.30. Only two career starts, both wins, the second despite fluffing the start, stayed on strongly to win going away from a bunch of seasoned handicappers. Up 12lbs and up in grade, from a wide draw, this represents a much tougher examination. However has the benefit of 'recency bias' and his campaign looks to have been very carefully planned out, with this another stepping stone to maybe even better things. The step up to 7f seems natural on both runstyle and pedigree and we know he handles the surface.
 
Bannock had a lovely introduction last week here and rates a danger. The lightly raced Figure of Speech has the potential to be a big improver as a 4yo, while Tamarkuz has an excellent dirt pedigree and could be involved if ready off the shelf, but the vote goes to FAULKNER (NAP) to make the step up in a race of mainly exposed and/or handicapped to the hilt rivals.

The fourth has a feel of a match between Sanshaawes and True Story, though the unexposed Be Ready might be another with a say. However it's a guess regarding which will be fittest, and I might wait to see the first few races to see if there are any stable clues to guide me here. At this stage a no bet event. Mushreq did win it last year but is another with fitness to prove.

The fifth again has the feel of two against the field. Recent scorer and Carnival regular SURFER who had a few of these behind when trotting up here 21 days ago, and a horse I have a lot of time for, Outstrip. Unless you count a career debut win though, has usually struggled off a break, and if bookies stick to ratings for prices, is likely to be artificially short and preference is just for the Satesh Seemar inmate.

In the finale, the grey TAMAATHUL (e/w) is a very interesting candidate. Had a recent pipe opener, and last four runs in handicaps have been 2,1,7,3. I suspect the 7yo is more likely to have an early season target than some of the potentially more exciting younger guns.This is off a lower mark than on any of these four occasions, and we should get a nice price against some likely 'sexier', (in market terms, you understand!) rivals. Equally effective at 6f and 7f, I expect to see him looming up a furlong out and at least making the frame.

Short Squeeze (Pat Smullen booked), Tawhid and Modern History would head the dangers, while Music Theory is a lightly raced lurker, but at likely prices (wouldn't expect the horse to be particularly popular with punters), a sporting e/w bet on day one.

The blog made a very slow start through the first three or four weeks of the Carnival last year, before we found our stride, hoping to get a better start this year, though i think you will have got the 'tiptoe' start idea by now! 

My likely bets. Singles and e/w Trixie: EDIT with very early prices

4.30 Faulkner NAP. 5/1 Bet365. At that price we can even have a cheeky e/w, unexpected!
5.40 Surfer 9/2 Paddy Power
6.15 Tamaathul e/w 14/1Hills

I can't help myself, add in Almoonqith e/w at 14/1, also PP, in the 3.20, that's an amazing price.

Thanks for reading and good luck if you play, small stakes for me on a really trappy opening to the Carnival season. Will update with prices when possible, hopefully Wednesday evening.