Last year the terms of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, restricted to four-year-olds for the first 50 years of its existence, were altered to permit older horses to participate in the 2,400m race.
The merit of this welcome innovation was immediately evident as the older brigade occupied all the three spots on the board behind the winner, Tintinnabulation, who is back for a re-match in the 52nd renewal scheduled for Sunday at the Malakpet racecourse.
As has become the norm, the two-day carnival which commences on Saturday features four Grade I events. At 3-30 p.m. this afternoon exactly one dozen stamina-laden runners will clash for the Stayers’ Cup (3,000m), which remains without a sponsor for the third year in a row.
Seventy five minutes later, it will be the turn of 14 of the fleetest competitors in India to face off in the Sprinters’ Cup (1,200m), set for 4-45 p.m.
Native Knight bids fair
Past results show that the terms of the Stayers' Cup favour older, more seasoned runners, and few are older or more seasoned than Native Knight, winner of this event in 2013 and runner-up the previous year, who bids fair to repeat.
Camorra and Astapi have previously shown they belong in this company, while Applejack has been most consistent over trips of 2,000m or further.
Both Super Storm and Wind Stream have been winless for over a year, but cannot be completely ruled out. From the younger lot, Captain Courageous, in fine form of late, has the most appeal.
At the other end of the distance scale, the draw is a critical factor in determining the chances of the runners. Mariinsky has done herself no favours by getting drawn out with the washing in the widest stall of all in the Sprinters' Cup.
She is usually late on the scene, and will need the length of the straight to reel in fellow members of the 2010 crop — and the likely front-runners — such as Dancing Prances, Rosie Sunshine and Dancing Phoenix.
Narrowly nosed out by Nefyn (who is back for another try) in last year's renewal, the six-year-old Speed Six will attempt to make amends and there is plenty of confidence in his camp.