Big news from the desert this week  - Yes, it rained! :) And, somewhere between scraping ice from the windows and tightly clutching a warm mug of coffee to thaw out, my heart may have momentarily bled for those who were suffering 30c, and as they were quick to tell us on twitter, and, oh my sainted aunt, imagine it, poor souls... rain! But if my heart did bleed, I may have missed it... :)

Of course the implication is that it might reduce the kickback this week in the four dirt races (which, happily, bulged with provisional entries this week, though final turnouts are again just short of Maximum fields) but also might effect pace and draw bias, so it will be fascinating to see how the track rides. And there might be a little less sting on the turf course.
It's a little early to give much meaning to speed figures on dirt but hopefully that will come more in to play as the Carnival progresses.

Anyway last week produced a mixed bag for the blog. Nap Energia Davos ran into a bang in form winner, but just outbattled Storm Belt to snatch the e/w money in third at a respectable 11/1 sp,
Maftool though had a difference of opinion when headbutting the starting gate, as the stalls opened. Actually travelled like the best horse through the race despite that, but at the business end had nothing left and stayed on for third. Definitely capable of winning if that was a one-off.

So it was left to Haafaguinea to defiantly grind down the front running Mr Pommeroy (put up as the wrong price of the day!) in the final heartbeat of a pulsating contest. Any blog followers were hopefully able to enjoy the duel more than many, as the two selections fought out the finish, clear of the field!
Barzalona dropped his whip on the runner up a fair way from home on the runner up. Chances are it made the difference, but I'm not convinced. A close watch of the replay suggested to your blogger that almost at no time did the runner-up's stride shorten. Whether he'd have found much more is open to considerable conjecture. Happily, regardless, that win also meant that the e/w treble landed, so it was a fairly decently profitable return overall on the day's main bets.

For anyone who made it to last week's 'PS', there was the added bonus of Saturday's undercard's sole suggestion, Almoonqith, scoring at 4/1. Hopefully a few readers got on.....There's a similar PS this week ;)

THURSDAY 22ND JANUARY.

For the third week running, though not deliberately, three main selections.

3.55 10f Dirt 80-93 

Street Act is a regular round here and should run his usual honest race but is an 8yo now and unlikely to improve any, as well as probably short enough in the market.  But of much more interest is CRY JOY, a good second to Diwaan (who was completing a hattrick) over a furlong further last time on this surface, on just fifth career start.

Travelled like a nice horse that day but was 'racing' a long way from home and, having eventually mastered one rival, and though saw the trip out fine, gave best to another close home. Shaped as a real improver though, and one of the few who has already displayed a liking for the surface. With Silvestre De Sousa taking over from Ahmed Ajtebi, this horse looks ready to run a big race and gets the vote in a race full of suspect rivals.

Sefri. who ran in a better event at Jebel, a valuable Listed contest when beaten less than 4 lengths, should be respected, and potentially at the weights is the best horse in here by a way,  but has to concede 11lbs to the selection and a close watch of his last three runs suggests to me that, for whatever reason, this horse is not putting it all in.

They tried to keep him out of the kickback at Jebel last time by coming wide, but having briefly threatened 2f out, the Jazil gelding downed tools alarmingly. Infact finished a long last (albeit off a break) on his only try on this surface.

Ex-Irish Pit Stop is only a 4yo and should be capable of progress having run respectably in some competitive higher grade handicaps in the summer, but might need a few pounds back from the handicapper and is unproven on dirt, while Jalaa could just be high enough in the weights, a comment that also applies to Pit Stop's stablemate Hunting Ground, who at least represents an in form yard and appears to be preferred by Barzalona.

We have already seen repeat winners on dirt, such as Bernardin, True Story and Faulkner and I'm hoping this week will add CRY JOY to the list.

4.30. 9 Furlongs Turf. 100-110 Handicap

John Ryan runs two, Ocean Tempest and Tenor. The latter beat Steeler at Bath in a Class Three in the summer, but is 6lbs worse off now for 1.5 length success, while Ocean Tempest was a solid enough fifth in the aforementioned race won by Haafaguinea last week. Our Channel represents Willie Haggas, but i wouldn't associate the stable with first time out winners in January, and Validus has largely struggled off this sort of mark, so this is probably best left to PILOTE (NB).

Ran a race full of promise on reappearance, staying on into third behind a bang in form True Story, and Mushreq, who had taken that contest a year before. It's thirteen runs since this classdropper last contested a non-Listed or Group event, and with this drop into handicap company, and receiving 6lbs from the Ryan pair, is expected to take advantage.

5.05 1 mile Dirt. 100-110 Handicap

Haatheq finished 3 lengths in front of Empire Storm when they were a fine second and third to Variety Club at level weights last season and is 3lbs better in.now with Empire Storm. Confirmed the form when they were 3rd and 8th a fortnight ago and is preferred of that pair. Samurai Sword looked in need of the run when behind True Story last time and better is anticipated, while Limario liked a bit of cut on turf and might not take to this surface and the enigmatic but inconsistent Tamarkuz was a fine second to Faulkner a fortnight ago.
Came with a very similar effort from the rear, to the winner, and only gave best to a very well handicapped rival close home. A winner at a mile in the past, the extra furlong holds no fears and as a 5yo might have more scope for progress than most
Prince Alzain is one to keep an eye on, but could still need this after a reappearance fourth of four at Lingfield.

In an intriguing looking contest the selection goes to the racefit and in form HAATHEQ (NAP), who has the Group placed form in the book (behind a multiple Group One winner), has shown a liking for the track, holds his form well and therefore looks a dangerously well handicapped horse off 105.

OTHER RACES IN SUMMARY

Will look out for price ricks to add here, but these, as last week, would be observations rather than bets for me, unless price is irresistible.

5.40 7f Turf. Group Two.

ANAEROBIO is one of three Mike De Kock representatives here and the ride of Christophe Soumillon. Given that the horse, which was later to be at the centre of the supposed 'Team tactics and the Pat Cosgrave affair', bolted up on reappearance here last season, he is the selection to do so again. Progressed all last year, and was only beaten 2 lengths behind Vercingetorix in a Group One later on, form which would win this.
Anton Marcus, Variety Club's jockey last year, turns up for Red Ray, (plus Rock Cocktail in 4.30) and though markets can be thin, this one is worth a check. 

Safety Check is the likely market leader. Won a handicap in fine style here a fortnight ago in a decent time and is clearly still progressing, so well worth the chance in this grade, but has yet to produce convincing back to back efforts in short order, so there might just be value in taking the horse on this time.
Shaishee was third to Faulkner, a fine effort, and if Anaerobio is not fully wound up, might be the one to take advantage. 

2.45. 6f Dirt, 95-105

A fiendish opener to the card, with class droppers and potential improvers taking each other on. Genius Step and Touch gold are in the latter camp, while Speed Hawk's 8th of ten, not beaten that far behind Hototo, was close to a career best for a Yarmouth, Bath and Wolverhampton winner at modest enough levels, but BEAT BABY e/w has speed to burn and ran a blinder first up here last year when splitting Alseeaqah and subsequent dual scorer Medicean Man. 5lbs lower now, could take some catching at what could be a tasty e/w price.

3.20 10f Dirt 95-110

Henry Clay finished ahead of a whole bunch of these and being a prominent runner, should make another bold bid from stall three. Busker might have run in a stronger race though behind I'm Back and should go close, but lurking right down the bottom with Paul Hanagan and just 8 stone 5lbs, is ENERGIA FOX, who should be an e/w price and wasn't disgraced when third, beaten less than 2 lengths, in Listed Company at Lingfield three runs ago, and might not have quite got the 12f when second to John Reel last time at the same venue.

6.15 12f+ 95-105. Turf

Group Two winner Excellent Result sets a very solid form standard, Aussie Reigns is a regular in big field handicaps and chased home SheikhZayedRoad in January last year off a shorter break, while Saxo Jack is unproven at the trip, though bred to get it for sure. As a buzzy type though, would need to settle well early on. EXCELLENT RESULT is the percentage call,.but only for those who feel they really need a winner in the Lucky Last!

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MAIN BETS. Before markets formed.

Win Singles, E/W Treble: Prices Updated.

3.55 Cry Joy 4/1 Bet 365. Adequate
4.30 Pilote NB 7/2 Paddy Power. Looks a decent price
5.05 Haatheq (NAP)  4/1 Skybet. Decent

Best of the rest. 2.45 Beat Baby e/w 12/1 Betfair Sportsbook

PS: Last week's PS's only bet produced a 4/1 winner on the Meydan Saturday non-Carnival card, Almoonqith, this week's might be shorter but I fancy MAQARAAT, 11.45am, to follow up a recent win at Jebel Ali on Friday morning. The only rival in any sort of recent form is stablemate Hacienda, but has struggled off marks around 80 in the past

Thanks as always for your time and best of luck if you play this week. :)