Bengaluru all set for the Invitation Cup weekend

March 01, 2023 08:04 pm | Updated 08:05 pm IST - BENGALURU:

Come the first weekend of March, the Bangalore Turf Club will play host to the Invitation Cup for the 13th time as the event enters its 61st edition. It began in 1963, but Bengaluru had to wait until 1969 to begin its tryst with the race which was won that year by a filly named Venus de Milo. This year the event will be called ‘Royal Arion Club Indian Turf Invitation Cup’.

It is going to an absolute cracker of a weekend with four Grade 1, one Grade 2, and 11 other races scheduled for Saturday (March 4) and Sunday (March 5). Money they say is what makes the mare go and the total stake on offer (including trophy value) over 48 hours works out to a shade under ₹40 million, making it the richest weekend ever in the history of the BTC.

The Royal Arion Club, making its foray into the realms of corporate race sponsorship in India, couldn’t have chosen a more prestigious and glamorous race. The BTC and The Royal Arion Club will be presenting a brand new trophy that was unveiled last year in Chennai.

So who’s going to win the Invitation Cup this year? Before getting into that, let us go back to 1976. Billed ‘The Battle of The Sexes’, Billie Jean King, then 29 years old, beat Bobby Riggs, who was over 55, in a winner-takes-all tennis match. Her triumph, watched by a worldwide audience of more than 90 million, is considered a milestone in public acceptance of women’s tennis. But, one can’t really call it an equal contest as Riggs was way past his best and King was in her prime having won Wimbledon that year.

But, if there is one sport where the fairer sex take on their male counterparts on virtually equal terms, it is horseracing. The Invitation Cup is a straight ‘weight for age’ race, run over the classic derby distance of a mile-and-a-half and the winner is hailed as the champion racehorse in the country.

To say the race has been dominated by the fairer sex in recent times would be the understatement of the year as fillies and mares have won the Invitation six years in succession from 2017. It is a sequence that has never been seen since the race came into being in 1963.

And on the first Sunday of March, this incredible sequence might well be extended. Mirra and King’s Ransom, the winner and runner-up in the Indian Derby, La Reina, who won the Bangalore Derby, and the defending champion Juliette are a foursome that the so-called ‘stronger sex’ are going to find difficult to vanquish. It’s a ‘Battle Of The Sexes’ all over again.

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