THE formidable Johnston stable likes to make Redcar’s Zetland Gold Cup an early season target, winning the historic handicap three times in the past eight years.

The record-breaking Middleham yard landed the prize with Forest Falcon last season when Mark Johnston and son Charlie both had their names on the licence.

However, Charlie is now in his first season at the helm and he has Pillar of Hope – a course and distance winner last September – among the entries for Monday’s renewal, sponsored by Racing TV.

Joe Fanning led from the start on Forest Falcon (pictured below), and the evergreen jockey is in the saddle for Pillar of Hope’s bid to land a race, which was first run in 1950.

The five-year-old gelding stayed on stoutly to win over a mile at Beverley last time, suggesting the extra two furlongs of Redcar’s galloping track will suit. Johnston also had Killybegs Warrior – sixth in the Dante Stakes at York last time – as an option for the Redcar race but relies on Pillar of Hope.

There are plenty of dangers in a competitive race, notably Andrew Balding’s City Streak – a winner at Chester last time – making the long journey from Berkshire.

County Durham trainer Michael Dods continues in fine form and he had his 13th winner in May when Zuffolo won at Redcar a week ago. Three of the same owners – Ian Davison, Geoff Thompson and Roger Saunders – are back for more with Sparkling Red in the Market Cross Jewellers Handicap.

The Bungle Inthejungle filly was ultra-consistent last season, winning at Thirsk and being placed on all four other runs. She disappointed on her reappearance at Thirsk in April when the ground was soft, and it would be no surprise to see her put up a better show back on quick ground.

Dods may also have the answer to the Celebration of Tom Hamilton’s Life EBF Restricted Novice Stakes with Taygar. The Churchill filly – owned by the family that run Taylor’s Butchers in Darlington – won on her debut at Beverley in April but flopped when odds-on at Pontefract on her next run.

A line can probably be drawn through that run because she got lit up in amongst horses and failed to settle, but she’s well thought of by the yard and is worth sticking with.

Teenage jockey Billy Loughnane has had a meteoric rise, with his claim coming down to three pounds in double-quick time. He rides Seven Questions for Newmarket trainer George Scott in Taygar’s race and the market will be the best guide to stable confidence.

Loughnane’s other ride is in the Jacks Coaches Handicap on board Daheer, trained in Worcestershire by his father Mark. Daheer has been running consistently on the all-weather and only went down by a neck at Wolverhampton last time.

The eight-race card gets underway at 1.45pm with plenty of runners in the Handicap. Danzart, trained in Lancashire by Stella Barclay, dwelt at the start but recovered to win going away over six furlongs at Thirsk last time, and steps up to seven furlongs with Sam James again in the saddle.

Yorkshire trainer Harriet Bethell and jockey Cam Hardie teamed up with Bearwith to win at Redcar last July, and the gelding was back in the winner’s enclosure at Newcastle earlier this month. He will be fancied to strike again in the Racing Again Tomorrow On Racing TV Handicap (Division One).

Our Dickie, trained in the Scottish borders by Iain Jardine, can follow up his recent Hamilton win in division two with the strong assistance of Jason Hart.

The remaining Racing TV Restricted Maiden Stakes is a tricky affair but Dalton Lane, trained in North Yorkshire by Philip Makin and ridden by Rowan Scott, shaped well on his debut to be second to Julie Camacho’s Winter Crown at Newcastle back in February. Winter Crown followed up with two strong seconds, while Mr Jetman – two places behind Dalton Lane at Newcastle – franked the form with a good win at Redcar last week.