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Invitation Cup wears an open look

By H.S. Manjunath

MUMBAI, MARCH 6. For the first time in the history of Indian Turf Invitation Cup, fillies outnumber colts. The fillies, who dominated the Indian Derby this year, are likely to garner more attention.

In a long history, Revealation is the only filly to have won both the Indian Derby and Indian racing's most coveted cup. So the likes of Psychic Flame has a role model in Revealation.

Experts see the Invitation Cup as a remake of the Indian Derby where Psychic Flame, Estonia, Sprungli and Allies Serenade were covered by little less than two lengths. As veteran Cooji Katrak succinctly put it "the day's form counts more than anything. A lot depends on how each one of those prime contenders perform on the day.''

Psychic Flame's dream sequence includes three classics in Calcutta and the Indian Derby. In her present rousing form she should take some beating. Estonia is a well-furnished, talented and gutsy individual. But can she turn the tables? Both Katrak and Mallesh Narredu feel that Estonia has trained on pretty well from that hard Derby grind.

Sprungli's finishing effort in the Derby cannot be lost sight of. Trainer Zadmal Singh hopes a slight change in tactics could perhaps bring Sprungli on par with the best.

While Psychic Flame, Estonia and Sprungli are basking in the Indian Derby glory, the well-chiselled Star of Windsor is jiving himself for a rich strike. The Bangalore Winter Derby winner may have gone unnoticed in the Eclipse Stakes here. But his finishing effort there with 61 kgs on his back had great purpose written on it. He has gone through steady preparation, has been enjoying the workload, has never looked more eager and strong and never sported a better coat.

Adrian is a late foal (born in June). His second in the Bangalore Derby was such a revelation. The ultimate compliment for Adrian's spectacular progress has come from an unexpected quarter. When pointedly asked about his chances in the Invitation Cup on Psychic Flame, Shroff admitted that the filly had possibly the best chance. But from among the pack, he would choose Adrian as the likely threat. Shroff feels that while most of the front liners have remained where they are in terms of current form, Adrian is the only one moving up the scale. So in a way this year's Invitation Cup has all the trappings of a `battle of sexes'.

If you are one of those looking for strangers to make the day miserable for the favourites, keep an eye on Amazing Strides, who was not far away from the Indian Derby place-getters.

What about Glorious Colours? Her Derby triumph is still so fresh. The filly ran into some rough patch after that. But the stout-hearted individual is working her way back. Two mock races have obviously done her some good.

The P.K. Mehra Super Mile Cup has been given a new dimension this year. While an odd Bergamo or Strength To Strength successfully took this hazardous route of Sprinters and Super Mile, the first three in the Sprinters Cup — Shamaal, Kanthara and Algeciras — are lining up for the Super Mile honours.

The one who took the race in his stride on Saturday will probably do better than the other two. By the look of it, Algeciras was the one who was motoring on towards the end. With two furlongs more to run, Algeciras may handle the step up better than both Shamaal and Kanthara.

Yet these sprinters-turned milers have to deal with confirmed milers in Name and Fame, Coral Gables, Frantic and Lancaster.

Name and Fame's leisurely run in a sprint should do him good over this extended trip. Coral Gables' claim is backed by a good track record he holds in Hyderabad. Is Lancaster as confused as the forms clerks who have been following him? In way the answer is yes. Somehow Lancaster has never been able to match his billing. Perhaps a mile will bring out the best in him.

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