Time gets up for Midlands National glory

Time To Get Up lived up to his name as he challenged late to grab victory in the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.

The 3-1 favourite was still more than a length behind Mighty Thunder at the 24th and final fence in the marathon contest.

But jockey Jonjo O’Neill junior, riding for his father’s yard and owner JP McManus, had timed his telling challenge to perfection as the eight-year-old did get up on the run-in for a length success.

Behind Mighty Thunder, who had taken over at the first in the straight from long-time leader The Two Amigos, was Final Nudge in third and sole Irish challenger Screaming Colours fourth – beaten a further two and a half lengths and length and a half respectively.

The winning rider said: “He’s a huge horse. He was obviously in the Kim Muir, but we just thought a big, flat, galloping track would suit him. He’s a pleasure to ride.

“We’re delighted, this wasn’t necessarily the plan, but he won last time and we just thought, as he’d gone up a bit in the weights, that it looked a nice target for him.

“He’s a gorgeous horse and he had some nice hurdle form back in the day, so he was entitled to take his chance.”

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The winning trainer admitted he was not certain his runner would see out the four-mile-two-furlong distance.

He said: “We weren’t sure whether he’d stay, but you don’t know until you try it. The ground was grand, everything was grand – it all came together.

“I’d say, for the trip, the ground was probably better drying out a bit. You don’t want it bog-deep when you’re going a long way and trying to get four miles, but everything went according to plan. He gave him a grand spin and it all went to plan.”

O’Neill trains the favourite for this year’s Randox Grand National in Cloth Cap, and Aintree could be a consideration for this horse next year.

He added: “I would think about the National, maybe next year. He’s a good old jumper and now we know he gets the trip.

“Whether he’ll have the pace for the National I don’t know, the National now is a fairly pacey race. We’ll see how we go.

“That was the plan, and it all sounds so easy when it works out.”

O’Neill was particularly thrilled to give his son a big-race winner.

He said: “It’s great, really. That’s what you dream of, isn’t it? When it all goes according to plan it’s even better.”

As for Time To Get Up, he added: “He’s a lovely looking horse and a grand character – he’s great to do anything with. He jumps very well – and now we know he stays too, so we’re delighted.

Time To Get Up is lightly-raced, but one previous performance on his CV already stood out – when an 11-length second to dual Cheltenham Festival winner Monkfish in a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse in December 2019, on his last start before joining O’Neill from Joseph O’Brien’s yard.

O’Neill said: “The Monkfish form isn’t too bad! I don’t know how he got that close to him, but he did.

“He’s had leg trouble but has done the job today, and he’s the type of horse that gradually progresses. We’re very happy with him, and hopefully he might be a National horse down the road. He has what is required for Aintree.

Cloth Cap is favourite for this year's Randox Grand National
Cloth Cap is favourite for this year’s Randox Grand National (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s in the Irish National, but that might come too soon. He’s one to look forward to next year.”

O’Neill is due to be strongly represented at Aintree next month by Cloth Cap, whose preparation continues to go well.

He said: “I might take him to Lambourn for a school over the National fences, but he’s in good order and if we can keep him that way for the next couple of weeks that will do me.

“It’s a great time for the yard.”

Jacob is centre stage again as Zambella completes Listed hat-trick

Daryl Jacob made his fleeting visit to Leicester a triumphant one aboard Zambella, who maintained her unbeaten record over fences with a tenacious success in the Pertemps Network Mares’ Chase.

After riding the first five-timer of his career at Wincanton on Saturday, Grand National-winning jockey Jacob took centre stage once again with victory in the Listed feature on the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained six-year-old.

The 8-13 favourite dug deep after the last to defeat Cut The Mustard by two and a half lengths and add to her previous Listed victories this season at Bangor and Warwick.

Jacob said: “She is very game. She is tough, and three from three over fences, and is getting better.

“Two and a half is a good trip for her, but two miles on heavy ground is just as good. You’ve just got to find your feet a bit and find nice opportunities.

“She has won three Listed chases now, and there was no hiding place out there today.

“The ear plugs just keep her relaxed, because when she came over she was very keen and an excitable filly, but they seem to be working at the moment.”

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Fontaine Collonges, left, on the way to completing trebles for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA Images)
Fontaine Collonges (left) on the way to completing trebles for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA Images)

Trainer Venetia Williams and jockey Charlie Deutsch took the plaudits with a near 44-1 treble, completed by the victory of Fontaine Collonges in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Hurdle, which the 5-6 favourite landed by a neck.

Williams said: “I must admit a couple of days ago, after declarations, I thought she was our strongest chance of the day.

“I was going to step her up in trip – but with testing conditions here and that long uphill finish, I thought it might compensate a bit.

“Half way up the run-in, I was cursing myself for not stepping up in trip – but bless her, she got back up.”

Jack Valentine (5-2) got the ball rolling for Williams and Deutsch, making his debut over fences a winning one by four lengths in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Williams said: “We thought we still had unfinished business over hurdles, so we kind of delayed chasing a little bit, but clearly this is the way forward.

“I know Charlie has ridden one or two winners lately where people have said it is perfectly judged – but in those cases it has been the horses’ inability to go quicker earlier. In this case, though, it was very well judged.

The Crooner (6-1) formed the middle leg of the haul, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in the Pertemps Network Handicap Chase to make it two wins from as many starts at the track.

Williams said: “He had been a little bit disappointing, and I was actually scratching my head a bit.

“He needed every yard to get there. This is the only place he has won at, because he won a hurdle here last season.”

Jonjo O’Neill junior carried the silks his father, and namesake, wore to glory in the 1980 Champion Hurdle aboard Sea Pigeon – steering When You’re Ready to glory by a head in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

O’Neill junior said: “The silks were great for dad, and I used them for pony racing, and it is nice to be back in them. They’ve been in the family a good while.

On the 3-1 shot trained by his dad, he added: “He ran over two and a half the last day – and he didn’t run too badly – but two miles in this ground up the hill at Leicester, we thought wouldn’t be too bad for him.

“All mine did was stay, and I was hoping the line was far enough away so he could get back up – luckily we just got back up.”