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This burgeoning sort can be Nicholls’ next left-field Lexus winner

| 27.12.2014

English raids on the Lexus Chase have been coming off with an emboldening regularity in recent years and no trainer can shoulder a greater proportion of the credit than Paul Nicholls.

The Ditcheat maestro has readied three conquerors inside the last seven runnings and saddles the improving Sam Winner, a 7/1 shot for this year’s renewal.

Denman was the first of Nicholls’ triumvirate to triumph, but, despite the glittering array of chasers in his armoury in recent campaigns, the British champion trainer has also landed the Lexus odds with the less-lauded entrants What A Friend and Tidal Bay.

Sam Winner may not yet have landed a Grade 1 over fences like so many of those he will face at Leopardstown, but the seven-year-old is unbeaten this term and arrives in upwardly mobile form.

His campaign kicked off with victory in the 3m3f Grade 3 Murphy Group Handicap off top weight in soft ground at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting in November.

That impressive success was followed up with a listed win at Aintree, where he accounted for Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Holywell, as well as Ma Filleule and Medermit over 3m1f, with the going good.

The latter victory, coming on relatively speedy track, suggests the son of Okawango may be more than the confirmed plodder some form students had him down as.

After all Holywell and Ma Filleule were rated 163 and 162 respectively before he encountered them on Merseyside – only two of his Leopardstown foes, Bobs Worth and Road To Riches, have higher marks.

The forecast heavy going is another factor that should offer Sam Winner a leg-up into Grade 1 company, with connections of his latter-named rival among those fearful that extreme ground will blunt their charges’ abilities.

While Nicholls’ seven-year-old has yet to prove he handles the ground since swapping France for England in 2010 some of his best form on the other side of the Channel came on decks termed ‘Very Soft’ or worse.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Thomas Reynolds