EVERYONE loves a fairytale ending and hopes are high that Sam Spinner can provide just that at Cheltenham Festival this week.

It is no exaggeration to say that the story behind Sam Spinner’s success is remarkable.

His trainer, Middleham-based Jedd O’Keeffe has fought his way back from life-threatening cancer and his jockey Joe Colliver is redeeming himself after serving a jail term for perverting the course of justice.

And throughout it all, Sam Spinner has continued a steady rise through the ranks which sees him head into Cheltenham as one of the favourites in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Mr O’Keeffe took time out from his intense Cheltenham preparations to reflect on how far the six-year-old has come since he was bought as an unknown entity less than three-years-ago.

“When we first bought him he was unbroken (unridden), he was completely untested so we had no idea how good or bad he would be,” says O’Keeffe.

“He had quite a nice physique and looked like an athlete, we knew quite early on that there was something quite special about him.

“But until you put them to the test you don’t know how good they will be.

“He won his first race which is quite unusual, as often the first race is a tester, a benchmark to improve on.

“So we knew then that he was going to be a little bit special and gradually he has improved and improved and this year he really took off.”

And took off he did. Winning a Grade One at Ascot in December propelled Sam Spinner into the national headlines and got northern racing fans dreaming that the region would once again be synonymous with unbeatable runners.

He now goes into Cheltenham as one of the hot favourites in the Stayers Hurdle.

All this comes against the backdrop of O’Keeffe’s own personal battle.

In 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer in his throat and neck and embarked on an intense course of treatment.

Amid the uncertainty over whether the treatment would be a success, question marks were also hanging over O’Keeffe’s future as a trainer.

The costs of arranging staffing cover and the travails associated with battling a serious illness took their toll but thanks to plenty of support from those around him O’Keeffe came back fighting.

“It was tricky at the time,” he says.

“Trying to deal with that (the diagnosis) was very hard and we have all pulled together as a family and got through.

“I was given the all-clear and I am still having annual check-ups which is reassuring.”

O’Keeffe admits that the excitement surrounding Sam Spinner has been like nothing he has experienced before.

The team has been inundated with media requests in the run-up to Cheltenham and the horse isn’t the only focus of the interest.

Cancer success notwithstanding, the turnaround of Spinner’s jockey Joe Colliver is a story in itself.

Colliver served a short jail term in 2016 for perverting the course of justice after he paid a friend to take the rap for a drunken car crash.

He is now well and truly riding the road to redemption with Sam Spinner.

“Joe has been doing really well,” says O’Keeffe.

“ Obviously when you get a setback in your life and your career with something like that it takes a while to get re-established.

“But Joe is working extremely hard.

“We understand that it is a story that the media has been interested in, but we are looking forward to the point where the focus is purely on him as a jockey.”

So how does O’Keeffe feel about Sam Spinner being one of the hot tips for this week’s festival?

“Excited, nervous, determined - all of those things in equal measures,” he says

“He is certainly well-fancied and short in the betting, either favourite or nearly favourite.

“I can’t tell you how busy we have been with all the media over the last four to six weeks, it’s something we’re not used to.

“We have never had a high-profile horse like this before and there is a little bit of a fairy-tale story about it with my illness and the fact that we are a small stable and everything else.”

And surely there will be many a fan hoping that Sam Spinner will provide a bright new chapter when he competes on Thursday.