Time To Get Up sets off on the road to a potential tilt at the Grand National with a first spin over the famous fences in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree.
Moved from its traditional slot in December, Saturday’s two-mile-five-furlong contest will be the first race to take place over the National fences in front of a full crowd since the Becher Chase two years ago.
Time To Get Up is well fancied to strike gold for Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus, having rounded off last season with victory in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.
The eight-year-old is already a general 20-1 shot for the world’s most famous steeplechase in early April, and those odds are sure to contract if he can make a successful reappearance on Merseyside.
O’Neill said: “We are having a go over the Grand National fences and we will see how we get on, but the ground looks perfect for him.
“He is in good form at home and hopefully he will run respectably.
“He won the Midlands National last season, and it would be nice to go for the Grand National this season, but we will have to see how he gets on here first.
“He is a big lad and hopefully he will love those fences, but we will find out on Saturday.”
Time To Get Up’s rivals include the 2019 Grand Sefton hero Hogan’s Height, who completed the course for a second time when down the field in the Grand National seven months ago.
The veteran’s trainer Jamie Snowden reports his charge in rude health for his bid to regain his crown, following a recent comeback run over hurdles at Newton Abbot.
He said: “He’s in great shape. It was wonderful when he won the Grand Sefton a couple of years ago, and we never really got lift-off last season when the poor chap ended up with one thing going wrong after another.
“It’s nice to really get him back, and he had a good blow out the other day at Newton Abbot.
“He’s 4lb higher than when he won it in 2019, but he goes there with a chance.”
The Lambourn-based trainer has an interesting second string to his bow in the form of Thomas Macdonagh, who was last seen finishing second in a novice handicap chase at Haydock in March.
“He’s fit and ready to go. We wanted to get a prep run into him, but the ground was too quick,” Snowden added.
“He loves soft ground. I think there’s mileage in his handicap mark, and he’s jumped really well over the National fences in Lambourn.
“So long as there’s plenty of juice in the ground, he goes there with every chance.”
The Alan King-trained Senior Citizen is another horse with previous experience of the fences – having finished seventh behind Beau Bay in last year’s Grand Sefton and third in the Topham Chase in April.
The eight-year-old warmed up for his return to Aintree by winning a valuable handicap chase at Market Rasen three weeks ago.
King said: “The more it dries out the better for him, and it looks like it should be dry up to the race.
“He ran very well in this last year, but didn’t quite get home on heavy ground.
“He ran well in the Topham too, so we know he likes the fences.”
Cat Tiger was third in the Foxhunters’ Chase in the spring for owner-rider David Maxwell, giving trainer Paul Nicholls confidence for this handicap debut.
“He also had entries at Wincanton and Auteuil, but the Grand Sefton was the logical choice after he took to the National fences like a natural in the Foxhunters’,” the Ditcheat handler told Betfair.
“Cat Tiger and his owner rider David Maxwell enjoyed a brilliant spin that day, leading two out and only being caught at the elbow.
“He’s a horse that goes well fresh and must have a fair chance, running off a mark of 135.”
Irish hopes are carried by Edward O’Grady’s The West’s Awake and Spyglass Hill, whose trainer Henry de Bromhead famously teamed up with Rachael Blackmore to win this year’s Grand National with Minella Times.
Of Spyglass Hill, he said: “He’s had a couple of good runs. He ran well in the Munster National the other day, and we just thought maybe the drop back in trip might suit him.
“Hugh (Morgan, jockey) gets a great tune out of him, and it’s a great opportunity for him.
“He’s a great rider – he’s been with us for years and he’s doing really well, so (I’m) delighted for him.
“We’re looking forward to it.”