With Straw Fan Jack, Lewis looks to Festival novice events.
Straw Fan Jack will be sent straight to the Cheltenham Festival by Sheila Lewis, who has the Brecon trainer’s attention focused on both the Turners Novices’ Chase and the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Straw Fan Jack has won two of his three starts over fences for owner Graham Wilson. In October, when he won the two-mile squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase under Sean Houlihan at Cheltenham, he defeated Gordon Elliott’s Ash Tree Meadow.
The grey was then beaten by Frere D’Armes in the Fulke Walwyn Trophy at Newbury the following month. He finished fourth in that limited handicap by five and a half lengths and gave up weight all around in the extended two-mile race.
With her eight-year-old stable star, Lewis decided to skip the Tingle Creek at Sandown with her three-timer, who is as short as 40-1 with BetVictor for the Arkle and has been introduced at 66-1 with Paddy Power for the two-and-a-half-mile Turners. Lewis became famous in October 2020 when she saddled a three-timer while also running a beauty salon.
Lewis stated, “I think we will just go straight to Cheltenham. We will enter him in a couple of novice chases and maybe a handicap.”
“He seems to run really well when he’s fresh. We will probably enter him for the Arkle. Maybe that is a big ask, I don’t know.”
“He won at Ffos Las and he was an Irish pointer, so he jumps well and then we took him to Cheltenham while he was on his game and thought if there was any chance he would win at Cheltenham, it would be at that October meeting, as some of the big ones had not come out yet.”
“He ran a really great race there and then we took him to Newbury and I think two miles there was a little bit quick. He probably needs further than two miles on a flatter track.”
“On a stiff Cheltenham two miles, he can get outpaced, but then he comes back at them and outstays them.”
“If it was good to soft or soft at Cheltenham, you’d take your chance, but he is just better on good ground.”
“The Turners is probably more on the radar at the moment, but you’d look at the Arkle. I don’t think he’s good enough to beat Jonbon, but sometimes the race cuts up and just to have a runner and to be placed would be brilliant. He’s got the track experience, which helps.”
The yard, which Lewis describes as “a work in progress,” is very much led by the son of Geordieland.
She chuckled, “My husband said that if I have to put any more stables up for you, I’m divorcing you!”
However, stable stalwart and fellow grey Volcano is going to Warwick on Saturday for the Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase. The nine-year-old horse has won five races over fences and placed in two Ludlow handicaps in his most recent starts.
Lewis is hoping for rain for the 115-rated Martaline son, who has won four of his five chases at his favorite track.
“He is bottom weight and he just comes to life there,” said Lewis. “He is in great form and the race is over three miles and five (furlongs), which he has won over at Warwick before.
“We hope the rain arrives to get the benefit of being bottom weight. Soft ground may slow the others up a bit. In soft ground he is probably a 125-rated horse.”
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