Joe Colliver will ride at Cheltenham thanks to delayed court hearing for drink driving charge

Joe Colliver will ride at Cheltenham thanks to delayed court hearing for drink driving charge

O’Keeffe, a diabetic who has battled throat cancer, studied Russian at Portsmouth and spent some time in St Petersburg before taking up training. Not your average CV, you might say, and perhaps that rich life experience has given him a compassion for human failings.

“He is a smashing lad, very good with our staff and very good with our clients,” O’Keeffe said of the 27-year-old rider. “I have known him since he was 16. We will just have to see how this all works out.”

Aside from riding for O’Keefe, Colliver has had a regular job for another North Yorkshire-based trainer, Micky Hammond.

“I have known him since he joined us as a school-leaver,” said Hammond of Colliver. “He is a hard-working, talented lad. He’s 27, he’s his own man, but sometimes you can get in with the wrong crowd.

“As regards the latest incident, the drink driving, being honest about it there are a lot of good people that have been caught for drink driving. But it is the law of the land. The door is very much open for him here.”

The Colliver-Sam Spinner partnership were the 9/4 favourites for this race last year, with many fancying them to follow up on the previous December’s Long Walk Hurdle win at Ascot, which remains the career high for both jockey and horse. It was not to be on that occasion.

They have only got round once in three tries together this season, coming fourth here in January’s Cleeve Hurdle.

Colliver himself said: “there was a bit of pressure on us last time at the Festival, now we are the underdog. The season has not gone our way so far, but we’re hoping for a bit of rain overnight to help us out, and then to run a big race.”

For two miles and seven furlongs, this is all that will matter in the world.

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