TIM EASTERBY, who sent out Ventura Mist to win the opening race at Thirsk 12 months ago, returns to the North Yorkshire course this afternoon with an excellent chance of completing an encore.

His representative this time is Zeela, who made a highly promising debut at Pontefract less than three weeks ago when finishing second and looking as if the experience would not be lost on her.

David Allan, pictured, teams up with Zeela in the first division of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes and the Great Habton raider is napped to prevail, just as Ventura Mist did last year before going on to clinch the richly-endowed Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy later in the season.

Thirsk's eight-race bonanza sees Lastchancelucas returning to the course where he won a fortnight ago.

Declan Carroll's sprinter did his job in determined fashion that day and the handicapper has responded by raising him 4lb. That may not be enough to stop this former useful juvenile in his tracks.

Jason Hart, rider of Lastchancelucas, has good prospects of enjoying a lucrative afternoon. Last season's champion apprentice also has a useful chance on stablemate Save The Bees, who looks to be returning to form, in the Marion Gibson Brown Memorial Handicap and Noble Storm, who should be sharper for his comeback outing at Chester, in the Weatherbys Private Banking Handicap.

In the Market Cross Jewellers Handicap, Apricot Sky makes plenty of appeal, despite having been dealt a hefty blow as a result of his Warwick success three weeks ago.

Henry Candy's sprinter was raised a whopping 11lb for that decisive success. Such a rise might halt the progress of most horses, but Apricot Sky is lightly raced and remains open to plenty of improvement. He commands the utmost respect.

Also worth noting are the speedy Al Ghuwariyah (2.50), trained by Kevin Ryan, hero of this week's Dante Stakes at York with The Grey Gatsby, and the promising Air Pilot (5.45).

At Newbury all eyes will be on Top Notch Tonto as he bids for Group 1 glory in the JLT Lockinge Stakes, which has predictably attracted a strong field.

Top Notch Tonto rose from handicap company to finish second in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth ll Stakes at Ascot last autumn. Brian Ellison, his Norton trainer, reports the gelding has come on considerably from his comeback run at Sandown.

This is going to be tough for the North Yorkshire raider as he meets his Ascot conqueror Olympic Glory, as well as two horses, Tullius and Montiridge, who finished ahead of him at Sandown. If Olympic Glory is in good nick for his first run of the year, he is the most likely winner.

Mooharib (1.30), who shaped well on his debut at Nottingham last month, is not to be overlooked in the opening maiden, while William Haggas fields a couple of runners, both of which scored at Ripon three weeks ago.

Battalion (2.05) goes for Listed race glory after his latest success, while Satellite (3.15) steps into handicap company off a mark of 86 after his comfortable debut win at Ripon in maiden company. Haggas has plumped for two of the best jockeys in the business, Ryan Moore on Battalion and Frankie Dettori on Sattelite.


Thirsk today

2.15 Zeela (NAP), 2.50 Al Ghuwariyah, 3.25 Lastchancelucas, 4.00 Save The Bees, 4.35 Apricot Sky, 5.10 Noble Storm, 5.45 Air Pilot, 6.20 Tamayuz Magic.

Newbury today

1.30 Mooharib, 2.05 Battalion, 2.40 Sir Reginald, 3.15 Satellite, 3.50 Olympic Glory, 4.25 Telmeyd, 5.00 Token Of Love.

Today's other meetings

Bangor, Doncaster, Newmarket and Uttoxter.

Tomorrow's meetings

Market Rasen, Ripon and Stratford.