Joe Colliver performed a minor miracle in the saddle to help maintain Sam Spinner’s unbeaten record over fences in the bet365 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
A great sit from Joe Colliver en-route to victory, take a look at this ??— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) December 14, 2019
Fortunately Callum Bewley was up after the incident... pic.twitter.com/0AGjMpsyVC
Only three went to post in the Grade 2 event, but Sam Spinner – a Grade 1-winning hurdler a couple of seasons ago – was not even sent off favourite.
That honour went to Brian Ellison’s highly-regarded Windsor Avenue, another who was two from two over fences.
Brian Hughes set out to make all on Windsor Avenue, but after failing to take a cut at his fences, he allowed his mount to take a lead and Sam Spinner eventually found himself in front.
Everything was calm until the sixth fence from home down the back straight when Sam Spinner met it all wrong, firing Colliver into the air.
To his relief, when he eventually returned to earth, Sam Spinner was still underneath him and Colliver was able to regain his equilibrium.
Callum Bewley was not so lucky on Aye Right at the same fence, though, and he departed.
Early in the home straight it soon became apparent that Windsor Avenue was not enjoying himself as Sam Spinner, without being asked a question, pulled further and further clear and his biggest danger was the loose horse.
Sam Spinner came home 38 lengths clear and trainer Jedd O’Keeffe is now working backwards from the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March.
“He wasn’t great at the first, but after that I had a bold sight at everything,” said Colliver. “He’s better with a lead amongst horses. I could see Brian in the shadows behind me, so going to the fence down the back I wanted to ask for a big one to nick a few lengths.
“That turned out to be the only fence he put down on me! When I was up in the air all I was thinking was ‘please be there when I come down’.
“He had a little look at the next, but after that he was fine. I think he’s got enough scope, he’s just got a quirk in him.”
O’Keeffe said: “He’s taken us to amazing places, he’s a Grade winner over hurdles, he’s already won a Grade 2 over fences – quite unbelievable.
“Obviously I thought it was game over at the ditch, but Joe worked wonders. To win after that was incredible.
“Other than that mistake, I was thrilled with his jumping. I thought it was the best he’s jumped out of the three races, he attacked his obstacles.
“Being honest, we’ve gone over fences because I didn’t think we could beat Paisley Park this season.
“We did always have chasing in the back of our minds and it’s all going right. Our main target is the RSA, so working back from there it will either be the Towton at Wetherby or the Reynoldstown at Ascot, then hopefully Cheltenham.”
Navajo Pass showed a willing attitude to land the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle for Donald McCain.
Bought as a potential juvenile hurdler by McCain’s biggest supporter, Tim Leslie, he showed plenty of ability on the Flat in the summer but was always going to excel when faced with a jumping test.
He won first time out at Bangor by 20 lengths, but was nailed late on at Newcastle last time out having looked home and hosed.
Stepped up to Grade 2 company, Navajo Pass was sent off a 100/30 chance with Nicky Henderson’s French import Tombee Du Ciel all the rage.
However, James Reveley was soon sending out distress signals on the filly and she dropped away tamely, with Alan King’s Lord Lamington the only real danger over the final three flights.
Despite travelling seemingly the better, Lord Lamington could never quite get on terms and the more Brian Hughes asked of his mount, the more Navajo Pass delivered and he won by three and three-quarter lengths.
“He’s been having to do everything on his own in his two runs over hurdles to date as he’s relentless, so we wanted to see what we had by coming here today,” said McCain.
“The last day he just got mugged on the line. Brian tried to mind him as he was five lengths clear going to the last. From the top of the straight we pressed on and his stamina seems bottomless.
“The only proper race he’s run in was on the flat at York and that was too much for him. He’s done today what we thought he was capable of.
“He’ll have a little break now because he’s picked up a cut, which hopefully isn’t serious, and then he’ll have one run before Cheltenham.
“Whether that is for the Triumph or the Fred Winter, we’ll let the handicapper tell us that.
“It means a lot to have another nice horse for Tim. He stuck by us when he didn’t have to and it’s been a testing time.”
Hughes made it a double on the day when Nicky Richards’ mare My Old Gold (4/1) pipped odds-on favourite Cloth Cap on the line in the bet365 Handicap Chase.
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