As many as 223 acceptors will line up in 17 richly-endowed races at Mahalakshmi Racecourse this weekend — a new record for participation. The occasion is the Indian Turf Invitation Cup carnival, which returns to town after a six-year gap.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship by construction company Hirco and the Vandrevala Foundation — an NGO — the prize money at stake between the start of Saturday's events at 2-00 p.m. and the conclusion of Sunday's card, a span of just over 28 hours, is a total of Rs.3.07 crore, also a new record in India.

Four Grade I events are to be contested — two this afternoon and another pair tomorrow. Today's choice events are contrasting in nature — the 1,200m Vandrevala Foundation Sprinters' Cup, which has attracted 14 runners and the 3,000m Vandrevala Foundation Stayers' Cup, for which seven are in contention.

With Oasis Star away in Dubai, there is no obvious certainty from amongst the fourteen vying for the title of fastest horse in India. However, Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy's Forest Flair has been most consistent this season, with a pair of 1:10-and-change efforts to his credit on this very track, and with ordinary luck should prevail in the Sprinters' Cup, set for 3-30 p.m.

Remembering that unconsidered “bolts from the blue” like Tiger Dundee and Shamaal have annexed previous runnings here, those who fancy outsiders could well look at the aptly-named Sprint Star. If there is such a thing as a certainty in racing, then Sea Ruler for “place” could provide it.

Four-year-olds are scarce in the roll of honour of winners of the Stayers' Cup, but the field is short of stars this year and Classerville looks the type who will grind on all day.

He will be tested by local hope Maseeha and the classiest runner in the field Conceptual, whose connections are sanguine. The race is planned for 4-30 p.m. and most of the afternoon's card — from 2-30 p.m. onwards — can be viewed live on ET Now.

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