Sam on Festival trial

Sam Winner will try to secure his place in next month's RSA Chase with victory in Saturday's IJF 50th Anniversary Novices' Chase at Newbury.

Paul Nicholls' charge was a disaster in his first spell over fences but has regained his confidence when given a second chance this winter.

He finished third in a hot event at the Open meeting before reversing placings with Le Bec on his return to Cheltenham the following month.

Nicholls said: "I really fancied him in the Pertemps last season, but he ran terribly.

"He's done much better this season and this is a stepping stone for Cheltenham. I did mention the four-miler, but I suspect the RSA will be his race."

That is the way Alan King is thinking with his grey Smad Place, who has taken third in the last two renewals of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Unseated on his jumping debut at Huntingdon, he rectified that situation when next appearing at Exeter.

"I'm keen to get a run into him so he'll take his chance, he hasn't been out since November," said King.

"He worked on Tuesday and I was very happy with him.

"The RSA looks the obvious race but I want to get this out of the way before I start thinking about Cheltenham."

With Gevrey Chambertin an absentee, the pair feature in a field of four for the three-mile heat with Harry Fry's multiple winner Mendip Express heading the runners.

He has won each of his three starts over fences this term, scoring at Cheltenham on New Year's Day on his latest outing.

Outsider Danners completes the line up as he seeks a first win for trainer Giles Smyly.