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New Zealand-bred four-year-old Minstrel is a standing-start specialist and is the class runner in the $25,000 Garrard’s Horse And Hound BOTRA Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night, and he looks set to prove the highlight on the nine-event program for outstanding young reinsman Dylan Egerton-Green.

Egerton-Green will have a legion of followers when he drives Minstrel, Howard Hughes and Vampiro for all-conquering trainers Greg and Skye Bond, as well as his own nomination Tyler Brett.

The Bonds have had mixed luck in the BOTRA Cup in the past few years, with Better Not Bitter leading until the final stages when a close second to Sky Art in 2017, scoring a brilliant win with the fast-finishing 30m backmarker Fizzing in 2019, and then experiencing last year’s disappointment of the failure of $1.75 favourite Divinia Bellezza, who galloped at the start and lost five lengths before working hard in the breeze and wilting to eighth behind Forgotten Highway.

Minstrel, who has won at ten of his 20 starts, is the sole backmarker off 30 metres after scoring decisive victories at his two appearances since resuming from a spell — in a 2185m mobile event at Pinjarra and then at Gloucester Park last Friday week when he started off the 30m mark and coasted to a three-length victory over Bettor Pack It in a 2503m stand.

Minstrel, the winner of the Golden Nugget in February this year, has contested four standing-start events for three wins and a second placing. His two New Zealand 2600m stands produced a second to Italian Lad and a nose victory over Wild Excuse when he finished determinedly along the sprint lane.

He made his West Australian debut when he began from 20m, quickly dashed to the front and won by six lengths from Divinia Bellezza at Narrogin last November.

One of Minstrel’s rivals on Friday night is Nearis Green, who finished third behind Minstrel in the Kurow Cup in August of last year. Seven-year-old Nearis Green is now trained by Michael Young, and the gelding ran a sound trial for the BOTRA Cup when he finished strongly from three back on the pegs to win by more than two lengths in moderate company in a 2116m stand at Pinjarra last Monday week.

Nearis Green will be driven by Gary Hall jnr, who has won the BOTRA Cup five times — with Strike A Blow (2002), Spirit Of Shard (2008), Classic American (2015), Naughty Maravu (2016) and The Bucket List (2018).

Adding considerable interest and a certain amount of intrigue in Friday night’s Cup will be the appearance of Victorian-bred four-year-old Awaitinginstructions, who will start from the front line and will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko.

The Courage Under Fire gelding had his first three starts in New Zealand for two unplaced efforts and a second placing. He has raced eleven times in Western Australia for nine wins (eight in stands) and one second. He has appeared only once at Gloucester Park, when he finished a half-length second to the brilliant Gardys Legacy in a 2130m mobile event in January this year.

Triroyale Brigade, a six-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding trained and driven by Robbie Williams, will start off 10m and will have admirers. He is a proven standing-start performer and he showed good form in a mobile at Gloucester Park on Sunday night when he finished second to Alta Blues.

Chris Voak has given punters a lead by choosing to drive the Giles Inwood-trained Bettor Copagoodone in preference to stablemates Disco Under Fire and Bettor Pack It. Bettor Copagoodone is racing keenly and her past seven starts have produced a win, three seconds and three thirds.

Written by Ken Casellas | Photo Credit: Hamilton Content Creators