Trainer Jedd O’Keeffe celebrated a “landmark victory” after Sam Spinner provided him with a first Grade One win in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
The five-year-old (9-2) stepped up a class after success in a handicap at Haydock last time out and duly saw off a strong field in the hands of Joe Colliver.
“I can’t quite believe it and needless to say I’m absolutely thrilled,” said O’Keeffe, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and almost gave up training.
L’Ami Serge (5-1) came home in second place.
Unowhatimeanharry, the 6-4 favourite, was third.
Sam Spinner made all the running and two big leaps at the last two flights ensured the strong-finishing L’Ami Serge came up short.
“I’m thrilled for the jockey, thrilled for Paul and Karen [Chapman, owners] and thrilled for us. It is really special,” said O’Keeffe.
“He has shot up the rankings and we had to take a little bit of a leap of faith coming here, but it has paid off. We’ve got quite a nice horse, I think.
“I didn’t think his jumping was as slick as I have seen it. It’s a landmark victory for us.
“He is the best jumper I’ve had by a long way and overall I would have to say he is the best I’ve had.”
The original plan for Sam Spinner had been to qualify for a prize on the undercard at jump racing’s Cheltenham Festival in March. However, results forced a change of heart.
A narrow defeat in a hurdle at Chepstow in October was followed six weeks later by a demolition – by 17 lengths and more – of a field of good-quality rivals in muddy conditions at Haydock.
Following this breakthrough at Grade One level, one bookmaker has cut Sam Spinner to 5-1 from 25-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and O’Keeffe raised the possibility of that being his next race.
He said: “We’ll have a discussion with the owners. He’s a very easy horse to keep fit and fresh, so I’d personally be quite happy if we made Cheltenham our target now.”
Cornelius Lysaght, BBC horse racing correspondent
How often do things work out like that? Usually, when an athlete who has excelled at a certain level finds themselves at the top, taking on the best, there’s a certain amount of hype, lots of hope, and then plenty of time to contemplate a burst bubble.
Sam Spinner took the leap from decent handicap race to Grade One at Ascot in his stride, setting off in front and repelling all comers.
It felt like a special moment.