A HIGHLY competitive renewal of the £50,000 Fitzdares Thirsk Hunt Cup (2.05pm) takes centre stage at Thirsk tomorrow, with a field of 15 declared for the historic mile handicap.

Last year’s third Astro King heads the weights for Sir Michael Stoute. The son of Kingman, who is the 9/2 favourite with Fitzdares, is seeking his first high-profile handicap success after coming close on several occasions last season, most notably when chasing home Real World in the Royal Hunt Cup.

Mick Channon landed the 2021 edition with 18/1 chance Storting and the West Ilsley trainer has leading claims of a repeat win with Trais Fluors, who was an encouraging seventh on his comeback in the Spring Cup at Newbury.

Last year’s form is further 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.

At the lower end of the weights, David O’Meara has two interesting contenders in Starshiba and Pisanello. Starshiba makes his debut for The Horse Watchers after being bought for 40,000 guineas at Tattersalls in October, while Pisanello was a highly regarded three-year-old in France two seasons ago and was off the mark for O’Meara in eye-catching fashion at Beverley last week.

O’Meara said: “It is obviously Starshiba’s first run of the season and his first run for us. We are on a bit of a fact-finding mission to see where we are, but he seems in good order.

“Pisanello has come out of Beverley in good shape. I thought it was a nice performance on the day and hopefully he should come on a touch for that run.”

Lion Tower and Empirestateofmind are both on upward curves. Lion Tower makes his seasonal return for Grant Tuer having won four times last term, while Empirestateofmind has won or placed on his last nine starts for John Quinn, most recently capturing a Ripon handicap on April 14.

Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who sent out subsequent G1 victor Farhh to win the 2012 Thirsk Hunt Cup, is represented by 2020 UAE 1,000 Guineas heroine Dubai Love.

Tim Easterby is triple handed, with his team headed by recent Haydock Park runner-up Delgrey Boy alongside Cruyff Turn and Snash.

The 15 runners are completed by Copper And Five, Mykonos St John and Redarna

The going at Thirsk is Good, Good to Firm in places.

James Sanderson, Thirsk’s Manager and Clerk of the Course, said: “We are delighted with the depth of this year’s renewal. A strong challenge is being mounted from outside the county, but Yorkshire is well-represented and it’s good to see two yards which are virtually on Thirsk’s doorstep, in David & Nicola Barron and Grant Tuer, both in with a fair chance of winning the 2022 Fitzdares Thirsk Hunt Cup.”