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.
Only three went to post in the Grade Two event, but Sam Spinner – a Grade One-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 One winner over hurdles, he’s already won a Grade Two 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.”