Sam Spinner lands Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot
Last Updated: 23/12/17 3:10pm
Sam Spinner announced himself on the big stage with an all-the-way win in the JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
Winner of a handicap at Haydock last time out, the five-year-old stepped up markedly in class for trainer Jedd O'Keeffe and the well-backed northern raider duly fended off all-comers in the hands of Joe Colliver.
Two big leaps at the last two flights meant Colliver was able to keep the revs up on the 9-2 winner, and L'Ami Serge, the last to challenge having travelled up strongly on the bridle, could never quite get on terms.
Unowhatimeanharry, the 6-4 favourite, was third.
The victory completes a remarkable career turnaround for Colliver, who was jailed for 10 months last year after lying about the circumstances of a car crash in the early hours of Boxing Day two years ago, being released early after serving almost three months of the sentence.
Colliver said: "The last time I rode him it was the biggest winner of my career and it just keeps getting better on this lad.
"It didn't feel like we were going that fast until we started to turn in (to the home straight). He just loves being out in front and jumps so good.
"I felt like he was idling a little bit on his own and every time something has jumped up to him he's gone on.
"I was hopeful he was holding a bit back."
In 2011 O'Keeffe was diagnosed with cancer in his throat and neck and almost gave up training.
He said: "We are so lucky. He (Sam Spinner) absolutely loves it.
"He's so tough and genuine and jumps. He just wants to be a racehorse and we're all so lucky to have him.
"The owners have stuck by us. I'm sure there's been times when they've regretted that, but hopefully today we've repaid them.
"I can't quite believe it really. It's the stuff of dreams at the moment."
Paddy Power cut Sam Spinner to 5-1 from 25-1 for the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March and his North Yorkshire-based trainer raised the possibility of that being his next race.
O'Keeffe added: "We'll have a discussion with the owners. He's a very easy horse to keep fit and fresh, so I'd personally be quite happy if we made Cheltenham our target now.
"There aren't too many options now and possibly Cheltenham will be the next target."
Nicky Henderson said of L'Ami Serge: "He has done everything right. He has got there and just couldn't get past him, it was as simple as that. He likes good ground, but this isn't bad ground. He has run a great race.
"He does finish second a lot. You think you have got there and will get past, but that is a tough horse, fair credit to them.
"I don't know where we will go next."
Harry Fry said of Unowhatimeanharry: "He was not good enough. He was beaten by younger legs. There were no excuses. The winner is a five-year-old going the right way and he couldn't live with him.
"We are obviously not getting any younger and we are naturally disappointed. There are no excuses and he was beaten by a better horse on the day."