Aintree on the agenda for Arkle fourth Straw Fan Jack

Sun 26 Mar 2023

Sheila Lewis will head to Aintree with Straw Fan Jack following his gallant fourth in the Arkle Challenge Trophy.

The popular grey has blossomed since going over fences this term, winning novice chases at Ffos Las and Cheltenham.

Sent off a 50-1 chance for only his fourth try over fences, he finished a creditable fourth to El Fabiolo.

Trainer Sheila Lewis said: “He’s fine. He just has a few bumps and bruises and boy don’t they know they’ve had a race there?

“We were so chuffed. We couldn’t have been any happier if we’d have won to be honest.

“We celebrated like we won, anyway!”

El Fabiolo was an impressive winner at Cheltenham
El Fabiolo was an impressive winner at Cheltenham

Though beaten 28 lengths by Willie Mullins’ winner, Straw Fan Jack’s jockey Sean Houlihan was happy with the gelding’s display.

Lewis added: “Sean thought Aintree would be worth having a crack at, as the Irish horses don’t always come over, preferring to stay at Punchestown.

“He said he was happy in that company. I know he was well beaten, but he said he ran on strong. He needs further really.”

The Grade One Manifesto Novices’ Chase, the opening race of the Aintree Grand National Festival on Thursday, April 13, is the eight-year-old’s next likely landing spot.

“We will go for the two-mile-four on the Thursday,” said Lewis. “He’s had a few lumps and bumps, but I think he’ll be OK for Aintree.

“It was one of those decisions where we went shorter because the Arkle didn’t appear to have that many runners.

“I think we went the right way, as I’m not sure we would have been placed in the Turners.

“That race appeared a lot stronger. Two horses (Jonbon and El Fabiolo) scared everything else off in the Arkle and us being the small team we are, we are happy to be fourth or fifth.

“The owner said he’d be happy to finish last in the race – just being there was good enough!”

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