Straw Fan Jack heading straight to Cheltenham

Straw Fan Jack's next outing could be the Turners Novices' Chase or the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.

Straw Fan Jack has won two of his three starts over fences for owner Graham Wilson, including taking the scalp of Gordon Elliott's Ash Tree Meadow when landing the two-mile Novices' Chase under Sean Houlihan at Cheltenham in October.

The grey then had his colours lowered by Frere D'Armes in the Fulke Walwyn Trophy at Newbury the following month, finishing a five-and-a-half-length fourth in that limited handicap, conceding weight all round in the extended two-mile contest.

Trainer Sheila Lewis, who gained fame in October 2020 when saddling a three-timer while also running a beauty salon, decided to bypass the Tingle Creek at Sandown with her eight-year-old stable star, 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 said: "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 son of Geordieland is very much the flagbearer for the yard which Lewis describes as "a work in progress".

She laughed: "My husband said that if I have to put any more stables up for you, I'm divorcing you!"

Yet stable stalwart and fellow grey Volcano has won five times over fences and the nine-year-old heads to Warwick on Saturday for the Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase, having been placed in two Ludlow handicaps on his most recent starts.

Crucially, he has won four of his five chases at his favourite track and Lewis is praying for rain for the 115-rated son of Martaline.

"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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