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Festival target for Sam Spinner after Ascot win delights Yorkshire connections

Sam Spinner ridden by Joe Colliver lead L'Ami Serge and Daryl Jacob over the last flight before going on to win The JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle Race run during day two of the Christmas Racing Weekend at Ascot Racecourse. (Picture: Julian Herbert/PA Wire)
Sam Spinner ridden by Joe Colliver lead L'Ami Serge and Daryl Jacob over the last flight before going on to win The JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle Race run during day two of the Christmas Racing Weekend at Ascot Racecourse. (Picture: Julian Herbert/PA Wire)
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SAM Spinner could head straight to the Cheltenham Festival after providing North Yorkshire trainer Jedd O’Keeffe and jockey Joe Colliver with a landmark Grade One victory.

The rapidly improving horse is one of the favourites for the Stayers’ Hurdle next March after making all to win Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle from French 
Champion Hurdle hero L’Ami Serge.

Judging the pace to perfection in the colours of Paul and Caron Chapman, it was, incredibly, Sheffield-born Colliver’s first ride at the premier track.

“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,” said O’Keeffe.

“There aren’t too many options now and possibly Cheltenham will be the next target.”

The Middleham trainer, who nearly quit the sport when struck down with cancer, looked visibly stunned by the success.

“I can’t quite believe it. We’ve got quite a nice horse, I think,” he added modestly. “I didn’t think his jumping was as slick as I have seen it. I feel we can tidy that up a little bit and we could get a pound or two improvement.

“It’s a landmark victory for us. People have said to me what is my ambition in racing and I’ve said I’d love to train a domestic Group One winner on the Flat, but this feels pretty good, a Grade One winner jumping.”

The victory completed 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 2015.

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.”