Jedd O’Keeffe believes Sam Spinner is in fine shape as he bids to take his unbeaten record over fences to three in the Bet365 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
The Grade One-winning hurdler faces only two rivals in the three-mile heat, and heads to Town Moor on the back of two victories over the bigger obstacles at Wetherby
But despite the small field for the Grade Two contest, O’Keeffe is not underestimating the opposition – headed by Windsor Avenue, trained by Brian Ellison.
“Windsor Avenue looks to be the greatest danger of the two and is developing into what looks to be a smart chaser,” said the North Yorkshire handler.
“We’re 100 per cent happy with our horse at home. He had a schooling session the other day with Joe Colliver. It went great. We’re really happy with the shape he’s in.
“The ground should be fine. The trip is fine, the track is fine. We’ve just got the opposition to beat.”
Windsor Avenue has won both his starts over fences, at Sedgefield and Carlisle, but now has an extra half-mile to travel. However, Ellison does not see that as a stumbling block.
“He’s in great form. Sam Spinner is obviously a good horse as well, so it will be interesting to see how it goes,” said Ellison.
“He wasn’t stopping over two and a half at Carlisle, so hopefully he’ll get the three miles. We’ll find out anyway, as we know Sam Spinner does stay well.
“We could get beat by Sam Spinner and still have run a good race.”
Taking on the big two is Harriet Graham’s Aye Right, who looks to have a stern test on his debut over fences.
Donald McCain is hoping Navajo Pass can get back to winning ways in the Grade Two Bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle after being caught close home by Tavus, from the O’Keeffe yard, at Newcastle two weeks ago.
A winner at Bangor on his hurdling debut, Navajo Pass made virtually all the running at Gosforth Park, only to be mowed down in the dying strides and beaten a neck.
“He’s a grand horse and I think he was a bit unlucky the last day. He did all the hard work and got mugged on the line,” said McCain.
“Doncaster should suit him and he’s gaining experience all the time.”
The likely favourite is Nicky Henderson’s Tombee Du Ciel.
The Seven Barrows handler and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have combined to claim this prize twice in recent years with two other French recruits in Peace And Co (2014) and We Have A Dream (2017) – and Tombee Du Ciel has run with promise in defeat at Auteuil.
Lord Lamington made a successful hurdling bow just last week and steps up in class for Alan King.
Paseo, Prefontaine and Robeam are the other hopefuls.