The fifty-first running of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, set for this Sunday at the Calcutta Racecourse in the “City Of Joy”, is a race with a difference!

For the first time ever in the half-century or so of its existence, four-year-old horses will have to compete in the event against their elders in the 2,400m race.

This is a welcome innovation which will enable a more realistic comparison between crops than has hitherto been available.

As before, four Grade I events will highlight the two-day carnival. This afternoon nine stoutly-bred participants will vie for the Stayers’ Cup (Gr. I; 3,000m) at 3-20 p.m — unfortunately, like last year, the race has failed to find a sponsor.

Seventy minutes later, 14 runners will square off in the Oasis Star Sprinters’ Cup (Gr. I; 1,200m), set for 4-30 p.m.

While four-year-olds have a spotty record in the Stayers’ Cup, last year one of that vintage triumphed and this time the crop is represented by Vijays Champ, who will however have to cope with the evergreen Native Knight, unlucky in 2012.

The last-named has the opportunity to go one better this time, with local hopes being pinned on Abriella.

The draw often plays a crucial part in any sprint race as does the phenomenon of “Horses for Courses”.

Winners over course and distance in the Sprinters’ Cup include Sunday Storm, Bullet, Crown Rule and River Star, but the last three are drawn wide.

Amongst those with a favourable post position are Western India’s Nefyn and Bullseye and this pair, along with Sunday Storm, form the core from which the winner should emerge.

Others in the reckoning are Speed Six (another to be drawn wide), Klipspringer and Master Bullet, a rare Delhi-trained invitee at the carnival.

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