Prison, cancer & money crisis: Sam Spinner’s rocky road to Cheltenham – day three preview

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    Joe Colliver has ridden 12 winners in this year’s jumps season
    Cheltenham Festival
    Venue: Cheltenham Racecourse. Date: 13-16 March
    Coverage: Full coverage on BBC Radio 5 live; continued on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text updates on BBC Sport website

    Sam Spinner is a leading contender in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday and victory would be quite a story.

    Trainer Jedd O’Keeffe has recovered from cancer and a financial crisis which almost forced him to quit.

    And jockey Joe Colliver is rebuilding his career after being jailed for lying about the circumstances of a car crash.

    Last year’s winner, Un De Sceaux, is favourite for the Ryanair Chase, with rivals including veteran Cue Card.

    A fairytale for Sam Spinner?

    Colliver was released early from jail with an electronic surveillance tag in 2016 after serving three months of a 10-month prison term.

    He had pleaded guilty to drink-driving and perverting the course of justice.

    His subsequent efforts to rebuild his life have been rewarded with three successes on Sam Spinner – notably in Ascot’s Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Christmas.

    “I’m deeply remorseful for what I’ve done,” he told BBC Sport. “I couldn’t be any more thankful to everybody that’s stuck by me.”

    O’Keeffe, who trains in Middleham, north Yorkshire, has also rebuilt his career after throat and neck cancer and is grateful to the horse that has put him centre stage.

    “It is a good story, but I keep on saying, and it’s correct, that we’re very lucky to have Sam,” he said.

    Other runners include Yanworth, who was seventh when favourite for last year’s Champion Hurdle, and The New One, now an old stager but with plenty of followers.

    Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, The New One has competed in the past four runnings of the Champion Hurdle – finishing third in 2014, fifth in 2015, fourth in 2016 and fifth last year.

    It will be a seventh Festival appearance for the 10-year-old who has racked up nearly £1.4m in career prize money.

    What’s on when, on Thursday

    (All times GMT, distances in miles and furlongs)

    13:30: JLT Novices’ Chase 2m 4f

    14:10: Pertemps Network Final (handicap hurdle) 3m

    14:50: Ryanair Steeple Chase 2m 5f

    15:30: Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle 3m

    16:10: Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (handicap steeple chase) 2m 5f

    16:50: Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle 2m 1f

    17:30: Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase 3m 2f

    Tips from the 5 live team

    Commentator John Hunt: 13:30, Terrefort

    Few horses have made quite the impression that Terrefort did when winning on his British debut at Huntingdon in January. He backed that up with a Grade One victory at Sandown and will relish the testing conditions.

    Reporter Gina Harding: 14:10 Sort It Out

    Trained by the shrewd Eddie Harty, Sort It Out was second in the County Hurdle in 2015 and returns to the Festival this year with another excellent chance of landing a big pot. He was an eye-catching third staying on from the back of the field under Barry Geraghty in a qualifier for this race at Punchestown and should figure in this fiendishly-competitive handicap.

    Jockey Lizzie Kelly: 16:50 Maria’s Benefit

    The toughest mare that has impressed all season for a small trainer who had his first Cheltenham Festival winner last year.

    What are the other day three highlights?

    Can anyone stop Ruby Walsh winning once again on Un De Sceaux

    Un De Sceaux, representing the powerful combination of jockey Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins, bids to retain the Ryanair Chase.

    Cue Card will try to regain the two-mile-five-furlong crown he won for Colin Tizzard back in 2013, having fallen in the Gold Cup the past two years.

    Cloudy Dream would be a poignant winner for Ruth Jefferson, whose respected trainer father Malcolm died last month.

    Michael O’Leary’s airline sponsor the race but his Gigginstown House Stud have never managed to win it, despite going close on several occasions.

    View the original article:

    This year he runs Sub Lieutenant, who finished second 12 months ago, and Galway Plate winner Balko Des Flos. Both are trained by Henry de Bromhead.

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