Thirsk Racecourse stages its traditional curtain-raiser this Saturday, April 17, the first of 15 fixtures at the North Yorkshire venue in 2021.
The Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup is the highlight of the season on Saturday, May 1. Won by subsequent G1 scorer Farhh in 2012, the historic mile handicap is set to be the most valuable race ever held at Thirsk with a total prize fund of £50,000 in 2021.
Local sponsor Cliff Stud was acquired by Yorkshire businessman Paul Sutherland in 2017. The 220-acre property, situated near the market town of Helmsley, was previously owned by legendary trainers Sir Noel Murless and Sir Henry Cecil.
As well as a rich history, Cliff Stud boasts state of the art facilities and accommodation for up to 65 horses. The stud is managed by former jockey Michael Wood and his wife Liz.
Paul Sutherland said: “The Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup is such an historic race and it is fantastic to be back on track with our sponsorship after an interlude in racing last year, due to the pandemic.
“Horseracing in the area has such a rich heritage and we are delighted to be able to continue our support of such a local, historic and high-profile race such as the Thirsk Hunt Cup.”
James Sanderson, Manager and Clerk of the Course at Thirsk, said: “Thirsk is very proud to be staging the richest renewal of the historic Thirsk Hunt Cup this year.
“This is only possible because of the incredible support of the race’s sponsor Cliff Stud; and in particular its proprietor Paul Sutherland, who has invested hugely in both the stud and Yorkshire racing over the past few years.
“It is very fitting that such a historic North Yorkshire race should be sponsored by such a historic North Yorkshire stud.
“This year we are delighted that ITV will broadcast the race, which means that many thousands more people will get to enjoy what is always a hugely competitive contest.”
Hayadh winning the 2019 Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup for the late Rebecca Bastiman, who sadly passed away last month
The feature race at Thirsk this Saturday, April 17, is the seven-furlong ebfstallions.com Michael Foster Conditions Stakes (2.10pm) for older horses.
Run over six furlongs until 2012, notable names on the roll of honour include G1 Haydock Sprint Cup winners Pipalong (2000) and Markab (2010) as well as multiple G2 scorer Breton Rock (2014).
Toro Strike is on course to line up for trainer Richard Fahey and owner Al Shaqab Racing. A maiden winner at Thirsk in 2019, Toro Strike outclassed the opposition in a seven-furlong handicap at Glorious Goodwood in July.
The son of Toronado was beaten a neck on his next start in the G3 Supreme Stakes at Goodwood before ending the campaign with an eighth in the G1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp in October.
Fahey, who has been the leading trainer at Thirsk in six of the last seven seasons, said: “We are pleased enough with Toro Strike. It is not easy to find races for him, so this looks an obvious starting point.
“He has to step up again on what he did last season. He improved 16lb during the summer and will have to go again – but we are happy with him.
“There are plenty of options for him later in the season over seven furlongs, but we are hoping he will be OK over a bit further this year as well.”
Toro Strike could clash with Pierre Lapin (Roger Varian), who looked a star in the making when landing the G2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury in 2019. The six entries also include Royal Ascot handicap victors Motakhayyel (Richard Hannon) and Hey Jonesy (Kevin Ryan).
The going at Thirsk is Good to Firm, with a mainly dry outlook.
The seven-race programme will begin at a revised time of 11.40am to avoid clashing with the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.