TOP novice steeplechaser Sam Spinner is likely to return to Wetherby for the William Hill Towton Novice Chase on February 1.
Jedd O’Keeffe’s stable star maintained his unbeaten record over fences in a Grade Two contest at Doncaster last time out with a comfortable win over Brian Ellison’s Windsor Avenue – but not without incident.
A clip of jockey Joe Colliver being fired out of the saddle following his only mistake at the sixth-last fence went viral on the internet, although other than that it was a smooth victory.
“He came out of it really well, healthy and happy and obviously we were thrilled so now we’re looking forward to our next start,” said Leyburn-based O’Keeffe.
“Apart from that one mistake, where actually he was incredibly clever, I thought his jumping was brilliant, which we were very happy about. He was attacking his obstacles more, Joe was being bold, so I was 100 per cent happy.
“We’ve got three runs into him, and basically there’s only one more chance to run before Cheltenham because he needs three miles and I want to keep him in novice company.
“That means it’s the Towton at Wetherby or the Reynoldstown at Ascot, he can’t do both. We’ll look at the entries and the ground, but with Wetherby being closer, and he’s won twice there already over fences – that might be hard to turn down as it comes first and gives us more of a gap.
“I wouldn’t be afraid of going to Ascot either, though, having won there already (over hurdles), and if the weather intervenes we have it as an option, but we’ll make Wetherby our primary target and see how we get on.”
The long-term target is the Cheltenham Festival for Caron and Paul Chapman’s horse who came to prominence when winning the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot two years ago.
He was then a gallant second to Paisley Park in this year’s Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero is firmly on course to defend his crown in the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
The Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old was stepped up in distance this season with the primary objective of being aimed at the King George VI Chase.
However, he suffered his first defeat in 20 starts over jumps when runner-up to Cyrname at Ascot last month – and Henderson subsequently ruled out a tilt at the King George following an unsatisfactory workout on December 14.
The former champion trainer has been more encouraged by his recent performances on the Lambourn gallops, though, and he will return to the two-mile distance over which he has dominated for this latest assignment.
Henderson said: “The ground at Kempton will be better than most places and that’s why we are going there. Nico (de Boinville) was not happy with him the other weekend, but he was happy with his work this weekend and he schooled phenomenally during the week.”
Paul Nicholls is double-handed with Danny Whizzbang and Master Tommytucker as he seeks a fifth win in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
He first took the three-mile prize, now named after his five-time King George VI Chase hero, with See More Indians in 1993. His second came 10 years later with Strong Flow in 2003, followed by Breedsbreeze in 2008 and Black Corton two years ago. Both his runners made winning debuts over fences following long absences.