The fog enveloping Meydan Friday morning is a fitting metaphor for the process of groping toward the key horses to use on Saturday’s super competitive Dubai World Cup program. It would be surprising if Godolphin doesn’t have a good night, but their favorites aren’t necessarily a slam dunk, and Japan could end up with as many wins on the card. My detailed thoughts are available in the race previews over on Brisnet.com, so I’ve linked to them in each race name below. Skipping the first race for the Purebred Arabians, here are the top picks, exotics types, and longshots to consider for the eight Thoroughbred events. 2ND Race, Godolphin Mile (G2), 8:15 a.m. (EDT) After overthinking #6 Muntazah’s draw last time, when he crushed the Burj Nahaar (G3) in track-record time, I don’t want to overthink things again. That said, even a slight regression from such a career top would make the even-money favorite beatable. #12 Coal Front is a purer one-turn artist than Muntazah, who was supposed to stretch out earlier in the Carnival, and probably will in the future. The 7-1 morning line on Coal Front won’t hold up, and his outside post isn’t great, but he has the early speed to mitigate the damage. Although #2 Nonkono Yume’s current form is forgettable, the Japanese Grade 1 winner is capable of outperforming his 20-1 odds. The switch to Joao Moreira could be significant for the veteran who’s jumped up in the past for a new rider, he’s reportedly enjoying the Meydan surface, and deep closers have been able to get involved if good enough this Carnival. For a total wild card, note that #1 Major Partnership is Saeed bin Suroor’s first Godolphin Mile runner since 2015 when Free Wheeling was third at huge odds. Dirt is the unknown for the turf/synthetic winner, but he has some speed on the rail and could get a slice. #3 True Timber shapes as an exotics key. 3RD Race, Dubai Gold Cup (G2), 8:50 a.m. (EDT) French shipper #2 Call the Wind has led trainer Freddie Head to return to World Cup night for the first time since Solow’s 2015 victory in the Dubai Turf. The Frankel blueblood captured the Prix du Cadran (G1) on Arc weekend – collateral form that suggests he’s a match for favored #9 Cross Counter – and he also has the benefit of a prep second, in a salty field over much shorter, at home. Cross Counter is the one to beat as the Melbourne Cup (G1) winner for red-hot Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby, who has sounded very confident about this reappearance. Appleby’s #6 Ispolini also rates a threat, as a sensational prep winner last out over the course, if he relaxes well enough early in this first try at about two miles. #10 Gold Mount might be worth a stab in this marathon experiment, out of respect for plying his trade against the big guns on the Hong Kong circuit. #5 Prince of Arran is overpriced at 15-1 for the Melbourne Cup third who exits a useful local prep, although he might be best used underneath. 4TH Race, Al Quoz Sprint (G1), 9:30 a.m. (EDT) As a multiple Group 1 winner on the ferocious Australian sprint scene, having beaten a future Royal Ascot Group 1 hero, and coming off another placing in a hot renewal of the Newmarket H. (G1), #6 Brave Smash has serious upset potential at 20-1. Appleby’s #8 Blue Point is the one to beat after romping in both Meydan preps, but his odds-on price is awfully short considering he doesn’t lay over the field on official ratings. In fairness, this is also my general policy of thinking European sprinters need to step up when taking on horses from other jurisdictions where the sprint game is so tough. That’s also why #13 Wishful Thinker, as a class climber from Hong Kong, looms as an intriguing dark horse. Americans have come close here the past couple of years, and #9 Caribou Club enters in the form of his life. While #10 Ekhtiyaar is up against it trying to reverse form with Blue Point, he’s a solid exotics player. 5TH Race, UAE Derby (G2), 10:05 a.m. (EDT) Appleby’s filly #6 Divine Image has been the three-year-old star of the Carnival, the main question being whether she can duplicate her Al Bastakiya feat versus a deeper cast of males. Before she got going, however, #1 Walking Thunder was the budding celebrity, but lost his cache as the runner-up (with a challenging trip) in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3). Now handed a rail draw, he has the tactical speed to take advantage with a maestro in Frankie Dettori aboard. Of the Phoenix trio, Walking Thunder is the only one connections have indicated would be Kentucky Derby (G1)-bound with sufficient points. #11 Van Beethoven is under-the-radar for Aidan O’Brien, and if he’d drawn better, I might have put him on top. The well-bred Scat Daddy colt wasn’t able to do himself justice in the second half of last season, but he’s eligible to take a leap forward off his sneaky Dundalk return. #5 Derma Louvre, a notable Japan Road performer, has long had this target on his radar. So I’m not holding his lackluster third against him in the Hyacinth, that smacks of a tightener, and remain hopeful of a good effort here. Trainer Doug Watson strongly believes that maiden filly #9 Razeena, a game third to Divine Image from a wide trip in the UAE Oaks (G3), can hold her own against the boys. I wouldn’t be shocked if the 50-1 shot cracks the superfecta. 6TH Race, Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), 10:40 a.m. (EDT) The American class edge in the dirt sprint should prove decisive, but I can envision different winning scenarios depending upon how the “Big Three” break and position themselves early. #4 Promises Fulfilled might have the advantage being drawn outside of #3 X Y Jet and #2 Imperial Hint. Although local kingpin #5 Drafted will get the pace set-up he craves, I’m not sure he can make up enough ground to overtake all the U.S. heavy hitters. The horse who has every right to finish in the frame at a price is #8 Tato Key, not beaten much by Drafted in his two Carnival starts since arriving with a 12-for-14 mark in his native Argentina. 7TH Race, Dubai Turf (G1), 11:20 a.m. (EDT) Since I tabbed #7 Almond Eye as my horse to watch for 2019, she’s the obvious top pick here. Japan’s unanimous Horse of the Year faces a test in her first start away from home, but every indication is that the daughter of Lord Kanaloa is ready to fire a withering volley. Her connections have made sure trackside observers can spot their allegiance, decked out in “Team Almond Eye” gear, and it would be the biggest shock of the card if this favorite gets overturned. Fingers crossed she pockets this on the way to a European campaign and an elusive Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) for Japan. Compatriots #3 Deirdre and #4 Vivlos have appeal underneath, having placed last year. While Vivlos also won the 2017 running, she brings current form as runner-up to Hong Kong supremo Beauty Generation, where #1 Southern Legend was third. Godolphin’s much improved #2 Dream Castle has lorded it over Carnival rivals in all three preps, but appears likelier for a minor award with Almond Eye and company turning up. A longshot worth including in the wagering strategy is #12 Without Parole, a Royal Ascot star last season who’s been training sharply enough for trainer John Gosden to sound positive. 8TH Race, Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), noon (EDT) Rooting for a Japanese double in the turf routes, I’m hoping that #6 Rey de Oro can make amends for his fourth here last year. The two-time Japanese champion has reportedly handled the travel better now, feeling more settled, and another difference is that he enters fresh without a prep. Compatriot #7 Suave Richard is a better-priced alternative, and his ability to quicken going shorter, as in his marquee Grade 1 last spring as well as a third in the one-mile Yasuda Kinen (G1), suggests he won’t mind if this tactical race turns into a sit-and-sprint. Godolphin’s #2 Old Persian will be involved based on his prior form and the turn of foot to get out of trouble in the local prep, but Team Japan presents a stiffer challenge than he’s met hitherto. O’Brien’s #3 Magic Wand can be relied upon to factor when she’s right, and after a second in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) on an unsuitably rain-affected course, she goes back up in trip and should be sharper than many of the Ballydoyle squad who’ve tried this race in the past. As with Old Persian, however, it’s more a matter of how tough the top two Japanese shippers are likely to be. 9TH Race, the Dubai World Cup (G1), 12:40 p.m. (EDT) As a believer in patterns, I expect #3 North America to run a mighty race third off the layoff just as he did the last Carnival. He has posted monster efforts on Super Saturday 2017 and 2018, while he has disappointed for different reasons on World Cup night (a sloppy track in the Godolphin Mile two years ago and missing the World Cup break due to noise shock last year). Neither scenario is likely to recur on Saturday, after Satish Seemar has trained him in the gate with the music blaring to acclimate him. All systems should be go for the impressive son of Dubawi, who has dominated the first two rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge in fast times, and sat out Super Saturday to save his best. A clean break is essential so that stable jockey Richard Mullen can get him into his massive stride, harness his high cruising speed, and hopefully power clear entering the stretch. Defending champion #12 Thunder Snow will be a different horse from his comeback loss, and he’s never been out of the exacta in seven career Meydan starts. Aside from the historical obstacle of trying to become the first repeat winner, the concern is that he, and brilliant jockey Christophe Soumillon, capitalized on a perfect set of circumstances in 2018 that probably won’t materialize again for a win. The American team is redoubtable, if lacking one obvious stand-out. #10 Yoshida brings an enviable portfolio as a Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf, from the in-form barn of Hall of Famer Bill Mott, so he gets my slim nod over the rest of the well-qualified U.S. contingent. My lone outside-the-box thought revolves around #9 New Trails, who appeared poised for a breakthrough in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on Super Saturday, only to look flat the whole way in fourth. Reading between the lines of trainer Ahmad bin Harmash’s quotes this week, I gather that was a mere formality as a prep to get him to the big night. If so, the previously rapid improver, and hard-charging second to North America two back, could be a live longshot in the first-time visor. The “beaten in Round 3” angle historically works better in the World Cup than winning Round 3, the main reason why I’m hesitant about #2 Capezzano, who has a different pace scenario drawn inside of the imposing presence of North America. Good luck and happy Dubai World Cup! TwinSpires.com is offering a special promotion for Dubai World Cup day – find details on how to win a “chip” for the World Cup and get a second chance at the Dubai bonus! North America capturing the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (c) Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen