By Andrew Atkinson

Thirsk stages its flagship race of the season on Saturday, April 30, with Sir Michael Stoute trained Astro King heading the 15 runners £50,000 Fitzdares Thirsk Hunt Cup over 7 furlongs, under 9st 10lbs.

The 102-rated five-year-old Astro King was a close third behind winner Storting in the mile handicap last year and, in a season of near misses, finished second in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.

The form of the 2021 race is also represented by fourth placed On A Session, narrowly denied in a valuable handicap at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, and fifth placed Jean Baptiste.

Storting’s trainer Mick Channon is eyeing back-to-back wins in the Thirsk highlight with Trais Fluors (2.05) tipped each-way by

Runner-up in the 2017 G1 Prix Jean Prat for Andre Fabre, Trais Fluors was on the scoresheet for Channon in a mile handicap at Sandown Park in June and not disgraced on his comeback earlier this month, when a staying-on seventh in the Spring Cup at Newbury.

“Trais Fluors is on great terms with himself, although he is still a bit backwards in his coat and our horses just seem a bit further behind than usual,” said Channon.

“He was a very talented horse in France for Andre Fabre and I inherited him in a roundabout way, but he is a smashing horse to deal with and a bit of a character,” said Channon.

“We were very pleased with his comeback run at Newbury and now hopefully he is ready to have a go at a big pot like the Thirsk Hunt Cup.

“If he can come forward a bit from that first run, which it looks like he has, I think he will be competitive,” added Channon.

Ten years on from Farhh’s commanding six-length victory in the 2012 Thirsk Hunt Cup, his trainer Saeed bin Suroor could attempt to win the race again with 2020 UAE 1,000 Guineas heroine Dubai Love and the lightly raced Long Tradition.

Progressive four-year-old Empirestateofmind has jumped 26lb in the handicap for trainer John Quinn, after winning or being placed on his last nine starts, most recently taking out a mile handicap at Ripon on April 14.

Starshiba, a half-brother to high-class racemare Barshiba, makes his debut for The Horse Watchers, having been purchased out of David Elsworth’s yard in the autumn.

Starshiba’s trainer David O’Meara has also entered French import Pisanello, who made a successful reappearance at Beverley this month.

Others to note include recent Haydock Park runner-up Delgrey Boy, trained by Tim Easterby.

£50,000 Class 2 7 furlongs Fitzdares Thirsk Hunt Cup (2.05) Fitzdares betting: 5/1 Astro King, 7/1 Trais Fluors, 8/1 Lion Tower, On A Session, Starshiba, 10/1 Cruyff Turn, Empirestateofmind, 12/1 Delgrey Boy, Dubai Love, 14/1 Jean Baptiste, Pisanello, 16/1 Copper And Five, 20/1 Mykonos St John, Redarna, Snash. Each-way ¼ 1,2,3,4.

Ahlawi (1.30) trained by Stuart Dixon and ridden by 5lbs claimer Jonathan Fisher is tipped each-way in the Best Puddings Are Yorkshire Puddings Fitzdares Handicap over 6 furlongs.

Callum Rodriguez rides Secretsinthepark (2.45) trained by Rebecca Menzies tipped each-way. Mark Walford saddles Oasis Prince (3.20) priced at 16-1 under Jack Garrity tipped each-way.

Amanzoe (3.55) trained by William Haggas is tipped each-way. Ruth Carr trained Captain Claret (4.35) ridden by 3lbs claimer Joanna Mason is tipped each-way.

The going at Thirsk is Good, Good to Firm in places. James Sanderson, Manager and Clerk of the Course at Thirsk, told “The Fitzdares Thirsk Hunt Cup is shaping up to be a highly competitive renewal on Saturday.

“It’s a big day for Thirsk with our showcase race going out live on ITV and, with a dry outlook, we are looking forward to a cracking afternoon on course too.”

THIRSK selections: 1.00 Dukono (ew). 1.30 Ahlawi (ew). 2.05 Trais Fluors (ew). 2.45 Secretinthepark (ew). 3.20 Oasis Prince (ew). 3.55 Amanzoe (ew). 4.35 Captain Claret (ew).

Caption: Mick Channon: Trais Fluors on great terms with himself.