THIRSK stages its flagship race of the season on Saturday with Sir Michael Stoute's Astro King heading 21 entries for the £50,000 Fitzdares Thirsk Hunt Cup.

The 102-rated Astro King was a close third behind Storting in the mile handicap 12 months ago and, in a season of near misses, also finished second in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.

The form of last year’s race is also represented by the fourth home On A Session, who was narrowly denied in a valuable handicap at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, and the fifth Jean Baptiste.

Storting’s trainer Mick Channon is eyeing back-to-back wins in the Thirsk highlight with Trais Fluors. 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 was not disgraced on his comeback earlier this month when a staying-on seventh in the Spring Cup at Newbury.

Channon said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

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 climbed 26lb in the handicap for John Quinn after winning or placing 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, could make 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 last week.

Others to note include recent Haydock Park runner-up Delgrey Boy, who is one of three entries for trainer Tim Easterby, and Les Eyre’s Fame And Acclaim.