Cheltenham Festival: Joe Colliver backed to ride Sam Spinner despite off-course problems

TRAINER Jedd O’Keeffe is optimistic Joe Colliver can take the ride on Sam Spinner at Cheltenham on Thursday – despite the jockey having a court case pending.

Joe Colliver still hopes to partner Sam Spinner at Cheltenham - despite being charged with drink-driving.

Colliver is facing a charge of drink driving and the case is scheduled to be heard at Harrogate Magistrates Court on the same day as Sam Spinner runs in the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.

However, Colliver’s legal team are looking to defer the date to allow Colliver to continue his association with O’Keeffe’s Grade One-winning hurdler.

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Sheffield-born Colliver put O’Keeffe in the picture after he partnered Sam Spinner in a schooling season at the trainer’s Leyburn stables yesterday.

“Obviously I’ve had a chance to talk to Joe now. His barrister is hoping to get the hearing deferred so he can ride at Cheltenham on Thursday,” said O’Keeffe.

“As it stands at the moment he will ride Sam Spinner. I’ve had a discussion with the horse’s owner and that’s where we are. Hopefully he can ride the horse. I’ve had a chat with Joe about how he is in himself. He’s clearly disappointed and worried, but he feels he’s in a good place to ride the horse.

“He doesn’t think it will have any affect on his ability to ride and I agree with that.”

Colliver, 27, has had to rebuild his career after serving three months of a 10-month prison sentence in 2016.

He was charged with drink driving after crashing his car on Christmas night in 2015, but got a friend to claim he had been behind the wheel.

Evidence found in the car disproved the story and both pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Sam Spinner gave Colliver, a Northern Racing College graduate, his biggest success with victory in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December 2017 before being unplaced in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle.

Looking ahead to the race, O’Keeffe was delighted with Sam Spinner’s final schooling session before the Festival.

After two below-par runs this season, the horse put up a much-improved performance at Cheltenham in late January.

“I couldn’t have been happier. Everything was perfect,” added the trainer.