The eight-year-old – one of the most exciting National Hunt horses in the North – has been in the sidelines since fracturing a pelvis last December.
It is believed the injury could have been a legacy of the horse’s winning run in the Grade Two December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster when he ploughed through a fence and catapulted jockey Joe Colliver skywards. He somehow landed in the saddle.
Nevertheless this wide-margin 38-length win over Brian Ellison’s well-regarded Windsor Avenue followed two earlier wins over fences at Wetherby, and Leyburn trainer Jedd O’Keeffe is mindful to stick with the larger obstacles for Sam Spinner, who came to the fore when winning Ascot’s Grade One Long Walk Hurdle in 2017.
He then put up a career-best performance when finishing second to Paisley Park in the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before switching to fences.
O’Keeffe believes the Grade Two Charlie Hall, on October 31, is likely to be a fairer task for Caron and Paul Chapman’s horse than asking Sam Spinner to carry one of the top weights in the Ladbrokes Trophy, previously the Hennessy, at Newbury towards the end of November, in spite of his relative inexperience over fences.
He said Sam Spinner came through a successful schooling session over hurdles last week and is likely “to jump a fence” next week. “He won his Grade Two at Doncaster and we gave him a week off. In his first canter back, his work rider pulled up after 100 yards and said he didn’t feel right,” said O’Keeffe.
He stresses that he has “no idea” how the injury occurred – but that “it’s possible” it happened during Sam Spinner’s dramatic win at Doncaster and that shuddering mistake.
But he, and his team, are simply relieved that the horse appears to be sound. “He seems absolutely great. He’s had a lot of rehab and time off,” O’Keeffe told The Yorkshire Post.
“He had his first schooling session on Friday and that was excellent. We will pop him over some fences next week and I think we will have to start him with the Charlie Hall. I think it will be easier for him than the Newbury race.”
Though O’Keeffe accepts this will be a stiff task, he says the race normally attracts smaller fields – and Sam Spinner’s winning course form at Wetherby is another advantage.
On his steeplechase debut last October at the track, he made a steady start under Sheffield-born Colliver before powering up the home straight.
While connections have not ruled out reverting to hurdles, O’Keeffe was pleased with Sam Spinner’s steeplechasing before injury struck.
“I was thrilled, He was getting better and better every time, and bolder,” he added.
“Apart from that mistake at Doncaster, he was excellent and he was getting quite proficient. We have some unfinished business over fences and we’ll find out how far he can go.”
Two of Sue Smith’s stable stars are due to appear at Aintree on October 25.
She has identified the Old Roan Chase as a comeback target for Midnight Shadow, a Grade Two-winning hurdler and chaser under Danny Cook.
Former Grand National runner Vintage Clouds is due to contest a veterans’ chase on the same afternoon. “Both seem to be in good order and we are pleased with them,” said Smith. “We’ve got a couple of weeks to go.”
Sharp Response has picked up a tendon injury and will miss the whole season.
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today.
Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers.
So, please - if you can - pay for our work. Just £5 per month is the starting point. If you think that which we are trying to achieve is worth more, you can pay us what you think we are worth. By doing so, you will be investing in something that is becoming increasingly rare. Independent journalism that cares less about right and left and more about right and wrong. Journalism you can trust.