After a really enjoyable Carnival, which wouldn't have been the same without so many kind messages about the blog on twitter and elsewhere, sincere thanks, we move to the ''Finals Night'', an engrossing blend of the best 'local' talent and challengers from around the World, including Japan, USA, UK, South Africa and France. 

The US arm of my twitter timeline have been mainly oozing confidence over the last week or so, seems they have several races, including the finale, in the bag. :) Anyway my independent runner by runner guide to the big race included in this preview.

My main bets are near the bottom for those who wish to avoid the ramble! Probably wise :).
Do please remember this is an amateur blog and not 'advice', any bets you place are of course your own choices.

It brings special punting challenges as formlines from across the planet need to be assessed and compared to try and come up with the winners.

Super Saturday was semi decent for the blog, two winners and a couple of big priced e/ws placed, including the Nap Umgiyo, who as expected saw out the trip fine (as those of us who collected the e/w money can confirm ;) ), though is probably more explosive at shorter..

Straight to business then:..

WORLD CUP NIGHT:

It does seem that virtually every race this year has at least one 'Hype' horse. I don't use the word in an emotive sense atall, just factual. California Chrome would be a fitting winner in some ways as would help to raise the race's profile in the US.

I have Four Main bets, with just 'interest plays' in the other races, but all eight are reviewed here, with a runner by runner guide to the big one.

From everything I've read on twitter, think it's fair to say there isn't a lot of love for any of my selections this week! Can't be helped and if it's a good night for favourites I'll be in trouble :)

12.40 GODOLPHIN MILE. One Mile. Dirt. Group Two. 16 Run

Only one starting place. The race revolves around Tamarkuz, who has now drawn stalls 1121 in his last four races. For a front runner who loves this controversial surface, it just couldn't be more perfect. Hugely progressive throughout the Carnival, three superb wins since opening up with a fine second to Faulkner in early January. Not surprisingly at the time of typing this horse is a best priced 7/4, with the market at 10/1 bar one. 
Highest rated off a mark of 115 is able to compete at level weights here.

Can we dare to take on such an apparently good thing? Yes. On two or three grounds I think so. FRANKYFOURFINGERS (e/w) dropping back to a mile is a prominent runner. While I wouldn't say Tamarkuz had a really hard race last time, it was a little harder than previously, and is his fifth outing since the start of the Carnival. So I think he might really be 'gettable' this time. At 7/4 there is enough running 'for' us to look elsewhere.

Edit: Nolohay a non-runner

Both Layl and Surfer, who have shown their liking for the surface, have drawn near coffin boxes in 14 and 16 and it will take something very special (not impossible in the latter's case) to win. Dark Emerald is another who has had a splendid Carnival. Prayer for Relief is an interesting runner too back at the mile, and the second to Lea, who runs in the World Cup no less, would bring the Romans/De Kock contender right into the mix.

Gold City has twice given best to Tamarkuz already and ,might be in the frame again, while Bradester is difficult to get a handle on. 

Jebel Ali mile winner Forjatt should get the run of the race but a mile at this pace might just stretch the stamina, and the vote goes to FRANKYFOURFINGERS (e/w). Can sit chilly just off the Tamarkuz fractions and from a decent draw is going to get the run of the race if all goes to plan. The 9.5 furlongs stretched his stamina last time and the return to his right trip looks crucial. Draw six will enable this horse to sit maybe third and I can see him picking off Tamarkuz late on.

1.15 Dubai Gold Cup. 2 Miles Turf. Group Two. 15 Run.

A mix of mainly proven Carnival horses and a few fascinating overseas raiders. Almoonqith has been a blog regular in terms of positive mentions, and came good stepped up in trip last time when staying on very strongly to score over a slightly shorter trip when outstaying Rio Tigre decisively. 
Any rain would help the cause of Meandre, while the German bred Bathyrhon is another to whom the same would apply, but the latter has scope for further improvement and has been persistently nibbled at in the market for some time now, and this German bred is clearly expected to run a big race.

But BROWN PANTHER, despite stall 14, is one favourite I want to have on my side. In many ways this horse has similarities to the sadly lost Cavalryman. A globetrotter, tough as teak and seemed to benefit from going up in trip with age, and frankly different class to these rivals here. Likely to be fresh, that draw could be an issue, however, as he showed when thrashing Leading Light and co a couple of outings ago, all ground comes alike these days, and i don't feel that there's an obvious alternative in class terms.

This will have been Ahzeemah's season target, and I can certainly see the horse in the frame if forgiven a no show last time, but in that sense preference is for Bathyrhon along with Almoonqith , to chase the selection home.

1.55 UAE Derby. 9.5 Furlongs. Dirt. Group Two 10 Run

Not a betting race for me, but in brief, Maftool and Mubtahij renew acquaintances with the score at 1-1 this Carnival, though having headbutted the stalls on debut, the former is preferred to come out on top, of the pair, particularly at this longer trip.
Sir Fever ran as though badly in need of the outing behind Mubtaahij on Super Saturday and should get very much closer, but a chance is taken that the form of GOLDEN BAROWS will be superior to what has appeared to be a fairly modest 'local' bunch this Carnival.
 Wouldn't have to be a world beater and appears to have a progressive profile. Not the most stoutly bred, and if this one has a flaw it might be stamina, but the standard of the race as I've said looks nothing special this year, and a chance is taken that class will prevail

Al Quoz Sprint 5f Turf. Group One. 16 Run

This time it's the local form to the fore for me, though Peniaphobia is an intriguing raider. Will this all happen a bit too quick though, and lack of local experience prove costly, as well as stall 16? I just suspect so, and in that case the key form race for me is the Super Saturday sprint 21 days ago. 
Second in that was AHTOUG e/w and as a regular here, knows the ropes and will surely be in the frame. Hototo will doubtless blast along from the front, while Sole Power will do the exact opposite and come from a mile back. I thought the Super Saturday run was disappointing, but on reflection and review not only was the horse in need of it off a break, but also got no run at a crucial stage. 
Will be a hostage to fortune again of course, but can be expected to go a lot closer, even with a question to answer for now. 

The one I think is the biggest threat, and I'm putting up for an e/w saver around 16/1, is VIA AFRICA e/w. Was caught out by the hustle and bustle of the race last time, and should have learnt plenty, having gone off quickly, looked beaten 2f out before rallying to be less than 2L down at the line. Should strip a lot fitter this time and can at least make the frame.

Amber Sky has shown little since winning this race last year but in a trappy sprint, could easily bounce back to form.

3.05 Golden Shaheen Group One 6f. Dirt. 14 Run

This is a no bet race for me with suspect formlines from many domains which are almost impossible to fathom. Rich Tapestry reportedly had a rough trip over and has lost weight, so is passed over. Secret Circle stays further than this trip, which I think will be a bonus and must be on any shortlist. Shaishee sprung something of a surprise on Super Saturday when winning at 16/1 but an in form sprinter so merits respect. Salutos Amigos's position in the market indicates a likely big run and Cool Cowboy should progress for a satisfactory run on Super Saturday, where Krypton Factor was mildly disappointing but if bouncing back could be yet another to consider.

LUCKY NINE (e/w) would be the token pick for anyone desperate for a bet at 12/1 currently. Although hardly proven on the dirt, is a three times Group one winner on turf, and that sort of class is in short supply here. Should give backers a run at the price.

3.40 Dubai Turf (Duty Free) 9f turf. Group One. 10 Run

Any rain would help the claims of Solow, a winner of seven of last eight outings but with the worst possible draw, while Mshawish was always talented but has really blossomed under the guidance of Todd Pletcher and is respected, but as is the reliable The Grey Gatsby who has been a really tough and gutsy horse, however this could be a starting point in what may be a long European season.
The filly Cladocera has some sectionals that give her a chance against the boys but this just might be a step too far for her at this stage of her career, taking on the older boys.

However I'm going back to the horse I napped on Super Saturday, UMGIYO (e/w 33/1 Skybet, 1/4 odds). Not atall out of sentiment (regular readers will know I don't do much loyalty! :) ). This was the only horse this Carnival to get near Hunter's Light, matching the winner's sectionals throughout the final 2 furlongs, the latter was priced up at 4/1 for this before his career ending injury sadly came to light. Did stay the 12f on Super Saturday but probably more at home over this trip and with his turn of foot I actually think he'll be hard to beat. 
Absolutely regardless, the market has this horse badly wrong imho,  and merits a good e/w bet for me.

4.15 Sheema Classic 12f+ Turf Group One. 9 Run

A No Bet race for me, but here's the preview of a race where tactics are as clear as mud.,

A good starting point  is Harp Star, with the assistance of Ryan Moore for the first time. This horse has scored from positions that even The Kama Sutra might have found testing... An astonishing turn of foot, and in what might develop into a tactical contest, could well play into the horse's hands. Given runstyle the widest draw (on turf of course) might not be a disaster for the filly, and if Moore gets her settled out the back, she has a big chance.
Probably wouldn't have won the Arc even with a perfectly timed effort, but certainly would have finished a lot closer than the fast finishing fifth that day.
Does have slight questions to answer on runs since then but suspect that this has been the long term plan and is a respected player.

If it is tactical though that would also help Designs on Rome, trying the trip for a second time. Very classy and an interesting contender, but was beaten at 2/5 over this trip last year, though in fairness that did come at the end of a long hard campaign.

True Story was held up to get this journey on Super Saturday and did stay on steadily, but maybe that was an experiment with this race in mind. On pedigree and previous running, if they go back to trying to make all, he might get a soft lead from a good draw in stall three and could make them all go a bit in the final 2 furlongs.

There's not that much between Main Sequence, Flintshire and Dolniya (might prefer it softer) on previous meetings, while ONE AND ONLY's efforts behind Gentildonna and Epiphaneia are respectable enough and could offer a bit of e/w value in a wide open contest which really doesn't appeal from a betting angle. Difficult to think SheikhZayedRoad would be good enough in this company, but connections are shrewd enough and the horse is nothing if not genuine and some of the others are as I've said questionable stayers, so could outrun price.

5.00 Dubai World Cup. 10f Dirt. Group One. Runner by Runner Guide.... 9 Run

.Nine Runners. Did say......
The fear is that those who made the decision will not be man enough, and this will drag on for a year or two until the inevitable return to the far more stable and reliable Tapeta. Hopefully those responsible will be as positive about admitting they got it wrong, as they were about changing things last year, but I'm doubtful... Little Rant Over :).....

Let's enjoy the race, such as it is, though. :)

ONTO THE BIG ONE, IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER.

AFRICAN STORY: Winner of this race last year, it looked like the change of surface had done for him when i napped him first time out this season, trailing home well beaten and looking to loathe every minute of it. 
But then next time made a monkey of your blogger, breaking well ,racing not far off the pace and getting first run to score determinedly (a bit like the Grand National, the first horse to win the race and win subsequently for ages). 
Home advantage can't be underestimated and is streetwise too, at Group One level. A player.

CALIFORNIA CHROME: After plenty of mixed messages about taking part here, it became clear earlier this year this would be the target. Won the first two legs of the American Triple Crown last summer before failing to stay the 12f in the final leg. Given a break after these huge efforts came back off a prep run to run another monster race at the Breeders Cup, finishing just behind Bayern and Toast of New York. For me that was just about a career best.
Has had another break and one more prep run last month, 2nd to Shared Belief.
Just a four year old, so might cope with peaking at least a third time in less than a year, but it is a monumental ask for just a 4yo to keep peaking at the highest level, and at 5/4 while I am not for a moment saying he can't win, at that price I have to be a layer. There's enough running for me to oppose, this is first time out of the US and off lasix.

If you're backing it at this sort of price or shorter, i wish you well, the horse has a serious chance.... here comes the 'but'... i can't help you. i simply don't believe there aren't easier 5/4 shots out there! Personal opinion only :D
EDIT: Chrome has drawn stall nine, much to the twitterati's apparent delight. As Faulkner and Tamarkuz showed at the start of the Carnival, it's possible to 'run big' or win from out there, even if held up, and the 'Chromies' say it will suit this horse's runstyle and keep him out of the kickback (not sure about the latter).

And IF he's the best horse, he can win, but the track has remorselessly played to low draws and/or being on the pace. 
Chromie will likely be held up and has a wide draw. Go Figure!

CANDY BOY: Doug Watson has had a beanfeast on the dirt, perhaps not surprising that an American has worked it out perhaps quicker than the Godolphin batallions. The noises about Candy Boy have been nothing but positive recently, and the trainer can ready one off a break.
The reality is though, that the runs behind the likes of Shared Belief and Bayern consistently suggest five or six lengths to find on California Chrome. I 'get it' why people have talked him up, but the formbook is not strong enough for me. Questions enough to be answered.

EPIPHANEIA: The first of the Japanese challenge. Has been running regularly in Group Ones, and trounced Just A Way no less two runs ago before attempting to make all, being caught close home over 12f behind Gentildonna last time. Both of these efforts were on turf of course, and therein lies the biggest question, along with the drop back to 10f. 
That run last time though, he travelled like a horse that will cope with the 10f, and making the running there might also have been part of the masterplan for this. I think Chrsitophe Soumillon will be asked to employ the same tactics here and that will improve his chances of handling the dirt severalfold.
EDIT: Stall eight is far from ideal, and will have to use some early to get to the lead, however this is a race with few pace angles, and I therefore expect the horse to lead all the way, after the first 100 yards or so. ALL the way.

HOKKO TARUMAE: 12 wins from 21 starts, including three Grade Ones albeit some at 'local levels' , Has to be another player as this trip is ideal and his jockey knows him well. However finished last in this race last year at 16/1 and even though that was not his running, was a 16/1 shot and should be similarly priced this year. might not have quite the class required.

LEA: After being turned over (probably my money the cause) in the Donn Handicap this year, a race Lea won last year, connections were reportedly sceptical about coming over for this, but once over that disappointment this became the target. A bit unclear, but some reports suggested the horse was eased off after the Donn. If that's the case, then it would be a large ask for the horse to be spot on now, especially having travelled a long way and off lasix. However he has been the subject of glowing reports from gallops watchers since his arrival in Meydan and at least on twitter there is plenty of love for his chances. Second favourite, an occasional cracking speed figure in the past on the cv too, and steadily backed in recent weeks, so plenty of people bullish about this one's chances. Respected.

LONG RIVER: Solid runs behind Pick of the Litter and Tonalist in the US represents a decent level of form, but showed nothing when last behind African Story on Super Saturday (ran like a horse that may have bled, dropping out very tamely). As such a win would be head scratching indeed.

PRINCE BISHOP: Actually defeated African Story on the Tapeta on reappearance last year before the latter comprehensively reversed the form on Finals night. Ran a fine race first up here this season, narrowly failing to reel in FrankyfourFingers, but then ran like a mule when second to African Story last time. Shoved along frantically in rear early on, came on the wide outside and was closing down African Story all the way to the line three weeks ago. An extraordinary performance. The balance of probability is that African Story will finish ahead of him here, but not impossible it could be the other way round!

SIDE GLANCE: Hasn't won for a while but it was a Group One over 10f that his last success was gained, in the US. Fair play to connections for having a crack here, though I think several would have to perform below par for him to take a hand. Several lengths behind Prince Bishop and African Story here last year, i suspect it will be the same again.

CONCLUSIONS:

EPIPHANEIA (e/w) gets a fairly confident vote. I think though I might know my fate very quickly. I'm hoping Christophe Soumillon will make the running and set a decent test, given the horse's proven stamina over further. We saw what Just a Way achieved here last year, and Epiphaneia has demolished him since. And of course Gentildonna was a winner on the same card, and Epiphaneia got close over further last time.

California Chrome will be the equivalent of 'The Housewives Choice' and every American occasional punter will probably want to be with the horse, which could go off mad short. Has a proper chance on the formbook, but i just feel the travelling and lack of lasix might combine to get him beaten, comments that also apply to Lea. California Chrome was reportedly scheduled to gallop at dawn a few days after arriving on the long journey from the US, and will race in the evening. I'm no expert in a horse's constitution but you have to wonder at such a schedule.

I suspect African Story will make the frame, and is the best of the rest, but it's Epiphaneia e/w around 8/1 currently, for me.

1) EPIPHANEIA
2) Lea
3) African Story

MAIN BETS, in what are fairly 'mature' markets now.

I've gone with Umgiyo, a staying on 2nd to Hunter's Light over course and distance two runs ago, which was 5/2 at time of withdrawal for this race. At 25/1 (1/4 odds) here represents the each way bet of the night for me. Might get even bigger, i don't see it being popular with plenty of 'sexier' higher profile horses running.

Singles and E/W Lucky 15: Note Bet365 and Skybet are 1/4 odds all races.

12.40 FrankyFourFingers e/w 8/1 Several. NB
13.15 Brown Panther e/w 9/2 Several
15.40 Umgiyo e/w 33/1 Several NAP. (Be Sure to secure 1/4 odds if backing!)
17.00 Epiphaneia e/w 9/1 StanJames

OTHER RACES/BETS: 12.40 Prayer for Relief e/w (added); 13.55 Golden Barows; 14.30 Ahtoug e/w and Via Africa e/w; 15.05 Lucky Nine e/w 16.15 One and Only e/w.
Edit: Feeling a bit guilty about leaving Sole Power out, class act in the field, at 8/1 added to the list!

PS: Thanks for all your support, it's been a blast! Win lose or draw this Saturday, if you've enjoyed the blog, I hope you'll look out for some flat horses to follow over the next ten days or so, in this spot.