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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

The stage is set for another titanic battle between Minstrel and Magnificent Storm when the outstanding four-year-olds clash in the $30,000 TABtouch York Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday afternoon.

This will be only the third time the New Zealand-bred geldings have met in a race, and it promises to be a marvellous spectacle.

They first clashed in the Group 1 4YO Classic where Magificent Storm blew the field away late January and then again in the Group 1 4YO Golden Nugget in February this year when Minstrel prevailed, beating Magnificent Storm by a neck.

Minstrel, trained by Greg and Skye Bond, faired better in the random draw for Friday’s 2130m group 3 feature event, and will start from the No. 3 barrier, with Magnificent Storm drawn out wide at barrier seven in the field of nine.

Magnificent Storm’s close second to Minstrel in the Golden Nugget is the only defeat suffered by the brilliant gelding in his 16 starts in Western Australia after arriving in Australia with his only appearance in New Zealand producing a ninth placing.

Mt Helena trainer Ray Williams is acutely aware that Magnificent Storm is facing a serious challenge this week, and he summed up his feelings when he said “I’m looking forward to having a re-match with Minstrel, though I would have preferred if they had drawn a bit closer together.

“I also know that Minstrel is not the only other horse in the race. However, I’m happy with Magnificent Storm and he is working in good style.”

In the 2536m Golden Nugget Minstrel started from the No. 8 barrier, with Magnificent Storm on the outside at barrier nine. Minstrel, driven by Colin Brown, raced three wide for the first lap and then in the breeze before forging to the front 650m from home.

Magnificent Storm was restrained at the start and he settled down in twelfth and last position before Aldo Cortopassi sent him forward, three wide, with a 1000m to travel. He moved to sixth at the bell and challenged Minstrel hard over the final 300m, with Minstrel revealing great fighting qualities to keep his rival at bay.

Cortopassi retains great confidence in Magnificent Storm’s wonderful ability and is looking forward to turning the tables on Minstrel. “I don’t think I’ll be running the gate from barrier seven,” he said. “It is not an ideal barrier, but it is what it is.”

Ryan Warwick also has considerable faith in Minstrel’s talent. He has driven the gelding seven times for seven wins. Minstrel has won at each of his five starts since resuming from a spell. He was untroubled to set the pace and beat Perfect Major at his most recent appearance, rating 1.55.6 over 2130m four Fridays ago. 

Leading trainer Gary Hall snr has three Cup runners — Ideal Liner (barrier one), Alta Intrigue (two) and Alta Blues (five) — but he said he doubted whether they could beat Minstrel and Magnificent Storm.

“Alta Blues is quite a smart horse, and if he had drawn to lead, he would have been really hard to beat,” he said. Gary Hall jnr has chosen to drive Alta Blues, who has won easily and in impressive fashion on the past two Fridays. Callan Suvaljko will handle Ideal Liner, and Deni Roberts will drive Alta Intrigue.

Son Of A Tiger, trained by Nathan Turvey, ran a splendid trial for the York Cup when he finished boldly from sixth at the bell to be second to Perfect Major over 1730m last Friday night. He will again be handled by Emily Suvaljko and will start from the No. 6 barrier.

“Last week’s run would have done him good,” said Turvey. “He should perform well, but the race probably needs to be run upside down for him to beat Minstrel and Magnificent Storm.”