For the first time since the race was thrown open to older horses, five-year-old Star Superior has an excellent chance of beating the four-year-olds notwithstanding the weight advantage that the younger horses enjoy. Quasar, Temerity and Desert God came close to winning for the older group but then fell short in the end as the four-year-olds with the weight advantage pulled through. The Mysore Race Club is all set to host the Indian Racing Carnival for the first time ever.
Though there is still two kgs weight difference, in the absence of the best four-year-old War Hammer who was sidelined due to a suspensory problem, one can confidently say the time has come for an older horse to finally get the honours. The other reason for the confidence is the fact that both Star Superior and Adjudicate who will be the prime contenders are in pink of condition and have done everything asked for them, with the first-named maintaining the unbeaten status this season while the latter has gone down fighting in close finishes. Old warhorse Desert God who worked exceptionally the other day is the one who can make them all run.
One would have been happy if all there was no weight difference between the four-year-olds and the older horses. It would have helped to know the class of two or three age groups if they competed at level weights. The older horses run with the additional disadvantage of having logged more miles than their younger counterparts who run with relatively fresh legs. Unfortunately, those at the helm don`t agree with the international practice and have reluctantly reduced the weight difference from four kgs to two kgs. The incentive to keep a good horse in training is sadly not there in Indian racing calendar.
The Mysore Race Club which became an independent turf authority in the last decade is conducting the Invitation Cup weekend races for the first time. They may lack the experience for the logistical circus but there is no dearth of enthusiasm on the part of the club`s authorities led by its chairman Dr Nityananda Rao. They have made every effort to make the event a huge success. They have been successful in getting a sponsor for all the races. Though the Invitation Cup prize money is funded by all the turf authorities of India, Mysore Race Club has been successful in roping in Swaroop Kumar, a relatively new entrant to racing, as an additional sponsor with a substantial contribution from him which has helped the club reduce its own burden. The chairman and his team are hoping for the weekend to go through without any hitch. Here`s wishing them all the best for their enthusiasm and hard work in attempting to put up a big show of the Indian racing calendar despite several handicaps.
Coming back to the Invitation Cup race, Star Superior won last year`s Indian Derby in spectacular fashion. Trainer Rajesh Narredu has done an exceptional job in keeping the champion at his best in almost all his outings. The champion horse hasn`t put a foot wrong though he was below par on only one occasion in the Hyderabad edition of the Invitation Cup after the hard run in the Indian Derby where he finished a tame fourth to Adjudicate. This year he has remained unbeaten in all his outings and both his wins at Kolkata over his main adversary Adjudicate have been impressive. Star Superior is in pink of condition.
Initially, there were reservations about Star Superior continuing to run in the mile and half trip but his impressive performance in the Maharaja`s Cup during the last Bangalore summer season and the two back to back wins at Kolkata has firmed up the confidence of the connections that the mile and half trip would not pose problems for him to accomplish what he failed last year. Jockey Suraj Narredu believes that Star Superior right now is physically stronger, more mature and ready for the fray. ``Star Superior is the horse to beat because the two horses I consider as principal challengers namely Adjudicate and Desert God have been beaten at Kolkata by Star Superior. However, I would like to add that one can never underestimate Desert God. The champion eight-year-old has not lost any zest and his workout on Thursday was exceptional.``
James McKeown trained Adjudicate is a strong contender though she lost on two occasions to Star Superior over shorter trips. Adjudicate has proved that distance is her forte and she showed that in the decisive manner in which she won the Indian St Leger over the gruelling trip. On the first occasion, she lost to Star Superior over a mile at Kolkata, her jockey took things a wee bit easy and could not shake up the horse to quicken when the champion colt came charging with a late effort. The second time she got beat over a mile and a quarter trip, Adjudicate came from behind and she came tantalizingly close to beating Star Superior who held on to win. Adjudicate has been kept in fine condition and she has been impressive in the workouts. She is bound to relish the mile and half trip and will attempt to achieve the rare feat of winning two Invitation Cup races which have eluded many a champion. Veteran jockey Y S Srinath who has the perfect big race temperament will be astride the Calcutta champion.
Padmanabhan trained Desert God has been an exceptional performer who at eight years of age has not lost his enthusiasm for racing. Desert God stands tall in the history of Indian racing. I have not seen an eight-year-old in India is still held in awe. Desert God has come up with consistently brilliant performances. Desert God loves to race and when it comes to outstaying the others, he is in a league of his own. The trainer believes that the champion has the hunger in him to be competitive against the younger lot of horses and hence has chosen to pitch him in the tougher Invitation Cup race rather than to take the easy way out of adding another Grade I race to the list of accomplishments by racing him in the Stayers Cup where he would have been near invincible.
Shiraz Sunderji trained Trouville ran behind War Hammer and he is one of the younger lots of horses to have some hope of figuring at the finish. Trouville surely lacks the class of the older horses but there is no denying the fact that he has been a gutsy performer who has defied his pedigree. The Indian Oaks winner Juliette who was jammed along the rails and did not get a fair run in the Indian Derby should give an improved performance in the Invitation Cup. Anjeze and Wizard of Stocks are no doubt quality horses but they lack the depth to make a mark in this field though they would be enjoying the pull in weights because of the terms of the race.