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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Hopes high for Sam Spinner as prospect of testing ground fuels Stayers' dream

Sam Spinner and Joe Colliver on their way to Long Walk Hurdle victory
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The Beast from the East may have done its best to throw a spanner in the Cheltenham Festival preparation of the north’s big Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle hope Sam Spinner but all will be forgiven if it leaves testing conditions in its wake on March 15.

With the gallops in the racing community of Middleham, home to Sam Spinner’s trainer Jedd O’Keeffe, closed and covered in snow last week, the timing of the bitterly cold weather could not have been much worse.

However, connections had a welcome reason to smile on Sunday after hearing Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse not ruling out heavy ground appearing in the description between now and the first day of the festival on Tuesday week once snow at the track has melted.

Although Sam Spinner is far from ground dependent, having won on going descriptions ranging from good to soft to heavy, conditions were not for the faint-hearted when he bolted up by 17 lengths in a Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Haydock in November and the possibility of heavy in the Cheltenham description certainly holds no fears for him.

“He’s got that bit of class and I don’t think he’s ground dependent but it’s peace of mind if it’s testing because he’s got form on it,” said Sam Spinner’s big-race jockey Joe Colliver.

“The snow has hindered us in the preparation as we’ve probably missed a gallop or two and could do with getting a school into him between now and next week but the good thing is that it’s wet and is going to soften the ground up for us.”

Joe Colliver (left) with Sam Spinner and the team at Jedd O'Keeffe's yard

Sam Spinner is a general 5-1 shot for the Stayers’ Hurdle, with only Supasundae and Yanworth shorter in the market, and despite an interrupted week Colliver said he was pleased with Sam Spinner when getting the leg-up on Thursday.

“We’ve had loads of snow,” said the rider. “The gallops in Middleham have been shut most of the week and they’ve just been lobbing around the moor when it’s been safe to do so. At this point leading up to Cheltenham he could do with being as fit as we can get him really.

“Hopefully we’ll get a school into him at some stage and we might be able to get into somewhere with an indoor school so we can have a little lob around and pop him over some hurdles.”

He added: “He’s fit, fresh and ready for a run – Jedd has got him spot on. We’ve never got to the bottom of him yet, so hopefully he'll keep on improving.”     

Colliver’s three previous rides at Cheltenham all came at the festival, including when sixth behind Sprinter Sacre in the 2016 Champion Chase on Micky Hammond’s Just Cameron, and he hopes to get his eye in at this year’s festival on Sam Spinner’s stablemate American Craftsman in the previous afternoon’s Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

“I’m counting the days off and hoping it all goes well between now and then,” he said. “There’s no nerves as yet but there probably will be when I’m heading down the chute at Cheltenham.

“Supasundae would be my fear but the only positive is he hasn’t won over three miles yet. They all deserve to be there and I’ve got respect for them all."

He added: “Having ridden in the Champion Chase, it gives you an insight into what it’s all about but, without being rude, my previous rides didn’t have the chance Sam Spinner had. It’s overwhelming and I can’t describe it – for everyone to be so supportive as well is unbelievable.”

Colliver's previous rides at Cheltenham

Hollins (finished sixth)
2011 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle

Only Colliver's 13th ride under rules but it turned out to be one to remember as Hollins stayed on strongly up the hill to finish a creditable sixth behind Sir Des Champs. 
Alderbrook Lad (19th)
2015 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
A 100-1 shot and on the back foot after pecking at the first, he  weakened badly after three out and was the last to finish behind Killultagh Vic. 

Just Cameron (sixth)
2016 Champion Chase
A race forever remembered for Sprinter Sacre's return to his imperious best. Just Cameron, probably the best horse Colliver had partnered prior to Sam Spinner, was an unheralded 66-1 chance but ran with plenty of credit in sixth.

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He’s got that bit of class and I don’t think he’s ground dependent but it’s peace of mind if it’s testing because he’s got form on it
E.W. Terms
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