Ascot Saturday

SAM Spinner continued his rapid rate of improvement with a front-running success in the Grade 1 JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

Winner of a handicap at Haydock last time out, the five-year-old Black Sam Bellamy gelding stepped up markedly in class for trainer Jedd O’Keeffe and the well-backed 9/2 chance duly fended off all-comers in the hands of Joe Colliver.

Two big leaps at the last two flights meant Colliver was able to maintain the momentum on the winner, and L’Ami Serge, the last to challenge having travelled up strongly on the bridle, could never quite get on terms. Last year’s winner Unowhatimeanharry, the 6/4 favourite, was third.

The victory completes a remarkable career turnaround for Colliver, who spent time in jail after lying about the circumstances of a car crash in Christmas 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. He just loves being out in front. 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 just wants to be a racehorse and we’re all so lucky to have him. I can’t quite believe it really. It’s the stuff of dreams at the moment.”

O’Keeffe added: “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.”

Nicky Henderson said of L’Ami Serge: “He has got there and just couldn’t get past him, it was as simple as that. 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.”

Harry Fry said of Unowhatimeanharry: “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.”


Coney Island returned from almost a year off with a stylish display in the Sodexo Graduation Chase.

Already a Grade 1-winning novice for trainer Eddie Harty last season, the J.P. McManus-owned six-year-old had not been seen since being touched off by Our Duke at Leopardstown last Christmas.

Facing just two rivals, one of those being More Of That, Barry Geraghty was content to bide his time on Coney Island at the rear of the field.

Paul Nicholls’ Adrien Du Pont, in receipt of 11lb, was keen and jumping well, going further clear and looked to have the race sewn up but just before turning into the straight, Geraghty began to gain ground as Adrien Du Pont’s stride shortened and Coney Island (11/8) ranged up on the bridle at the second last.

Coney Island surged to the front and came home unchallenged, leading to his odds being halved to 10/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Paddy Power.


The winner of the valuable Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle [formerly The Ladbroke] had a strong Irish connection. Hunters Call (9/1) was having his first run for trainer Olly Murphy and romped home under visiting jockey Jack Kennedy.

Hunters Call had previously been trained in Galway by John Neilan and his most recent outing was at Sligo in August.

Kennedy said: “Olly has done a great job with this horse. I was delighted to get the call earlier in the week to come over.”

Silver Streak took second for Welsh trainer Evan Williams and Nicky Henderson’s Verdana Blue was a never-nearer third, one place ahead of the Willie Mullins-trained Bleu Et Rouge.

Nicky Henderson did have a winner on the card when Gold Present (17/2) and Nico de Boinville got the better of Bryony Frost and Frodon in the three mile Listed Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase. The Grand National is his target. Lizzie Kelly took the opener on One Of Us for Nick Williams.


The feature race, the Betfred Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase was won by outsider Captain Redbeard at 14/1 for trainer and jockey Stuart and Sam Coltherd.

Willie Mullins’ mare Court Artist had to settel for third in the listed mares’ hurdle behind Fergal O’Brien’s Cap Soleil.