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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Yorkshire star Sam Spinner could be up for French Champion bid

Jedd O'Keeffe: confident that Sam Spinner is better than he showed at Cheltenham
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Defeat at Cheltenham has not dimmed Sam Spinner's popularity with the racing public ahead of his bid for redemption at Aintree.

And Jedd O'Keeffe revealed a possible French Grade 1 target for the long-distance hurdler, who was one of the star attractions at the Middleham open day on Friday.

He is eyeing the Ryanair Stayers' Hurdle on Grand National day for the six-year-old, who finished fifth behind Penhill when sent off 9-4 favourite for the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

But the trainer added: "We've talked about keeping him going and running in the French Champion Hurdle in June. That should suit him and it was soft ground last year when L'Ami Serge won it.

"If he won at Aintree we might be more inclined to keep him over hurdles next season and we'd consider Auteuil.

"If he looked like he wasn't quite good enough, we may consider schooling him over a fence and thinking about a novice chase campaign, in which case we wouldn't go to France as we'd want him out early in the autumn to get plenty of experience over fences before any bigger targets."

O'Keeffe reckons lack of competition up front at Cheltenham counted against Sam Spinner, who had made all under Joe Colliver in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on similarly soft ground.

Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle replay and result

"I don't think it happened right for us," he reflected. "We were surprised that we were left alone in front and what we needed was a bit of company.

"We clearly didn't go fast enough on the first circuit, his strength is stamina and we never saw the best of him. Joe said he was looking around at everything on such a big stage with so much going on. Joe would like to have gone faster but the horse wasn't quite experienced enough for that."

Mark Johnston's equine pool was one of the big attractions at the Middleham open day

"If we have company it would help him at Aintree and I hope he would go there with every chance," added the trainer.

"They're talking about going for the two-and-a-half-mile race with Supasundae and I wondered whether Penhill would go straight to Punchestown as Willie Mullins tries to win the trainers' championship. And the horses we took on at Ascot we beat again [at Cheltenham], so it might drop our way."

Another of the attractions for the many hundreds thronging the 12 Middleham yards opened to the public was Group 1-winning Qipco 1,000 Guineas hope Laurens.

She is set for a racecourse gallop at the Craven meeting at Newmarket and trainer Karl Burke said: "I think she's a very special filly, she's a fantastic specimen, she's very athletic and she's strengthened fantastically well through the winter. She's a high-class filly."

The ever-popular open day was organised by Racing Welfare, who are raising funds for their joint project with the Jessica Bethell Foundation to turn the newly purchased Hill House in the High Street into accommodation for young people with gym, treatment centre and 24-hour supervision.

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We clearly didn't go fast enough on the first circuit, his strength is stamina and we never saw the best of him
E.W. Terms
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