By Andrew Atkinson
Thirsk stage the £50,000 Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup (2.40) on Saturday, May 1, the most valuable race ever at the Yorkshire track, that includes Sir Michael Stoute entry Astro King and Spring Cup winner Nugget, one of two entries by Richard Hannon.
Hugo Palmer trained Acquitted is another entry with strong early-season form, having gone down by a neck in the Spring Mile, a consolation race for the Lincoln, at Doncaster on March 27.
The four-year-old won two of his three starts as a juvenile and pushed Palace Pier all the way on his three-year-old return at Newcastle in June, although he failed to repeat that form in two subsequent outings last term.
Palmer said: “Acquitted has come out of the Spring Mile in good shape, although he will need a drop of rain at Thirsk if he is to take his chance.
“We gelded him and gave him a long time off after he disappointed us twice last summer. He came back with a really good run at Doncaster and we would be hoping that he can build on that.
“The weather forecast I saw talked about things breaking down in the North this week but whether Thirsk gets any of it I am not sure.
“Five days is a long time in British weather and I will be keeping a close eye on developments as on good ground or slower, I think he would run a big race.”
Hayadh (Harvey Bastiman) landed the most recent running of the Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup in 2019, having filled the runner-up spot in 2018.
Tom Collins could make his stable debut for trainer William Haggas, while King Ottokar is one of two entries for fellow Newmarket handler Charlie Fellowes and owner Susan Roy.
Richard Fahey has been the leading trainer at Thirsk in six of the last seven seasons. The Musley Bank handler has two entries, led by York scorer Hartswood.
Lincoln Trial second On A Session (David Barron) and one-time Derby fancy Brentford Hope (Richard Hughes) are amongst other entries.
The mile handicap has record prizemoney in 2021 thanks to the continued support of local sponsor Cliff Stud, which backs all seven races on the card.
Cliff Stud was acquired by Yorkshire businessman Paul Sutherland in 2017. The 220-acre property, situated near the market town of Helmsley, boasts state of the art facilities and accommodation for up to 65 horses.
Cliff Stud’s Paul Sutherland said: “It is fantastic to see so many entries for the Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup fixture on Saturday, with 28 quality horses in the feature race itself.
“We are delighted to be sponsoring the day and that ITV Racing will be showing the Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup live for the first time.”
The going at Thirsk is Good to Firm, Good in places. James Sanderson, Manager and Clerk of the Course at Thirsk, said: “After a notably dry spell we may see some unsettled weather over the next few days, but I am not expecting heavy rain.
“I would not be surprised if we were on good ground or thereabouts come Saturday.”