Grand National: Numbersix? Make that No 1

Small Irish yard scale Aintree heights as horse named after a holiday home upstages Hedgehunter
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The Independent Online

The toughest race on the calendar? It was more like a holiday for Niall Madden as the Irish jockey rode Numbersixvalverde to victory in the Grand National at Aintree.

The 11-1 shot, trained by Martin Brassil at a small yard in County Kildare, held on down the long run-in to thwart the attempt by Hedgehunter to emulate Red Rum in 1974 and win the race for the second successive year. The 5-1 joint favourite had to settle for second place this time, six lengths behind the winner.

On a horse named after the address of the owner Bernard Carroll's holiday home in Portugal, it was a comfortable victory for Madden, which was appropriate for a man nicknamed "Slippers". "It's brilliant. I had a dream run the whole way round and he jumped super," Madden said. "This means everything to me. It's magic. I've tried to imagine winning this race since I was a boy but I couldn't. It's magic." Brassil, the trainer, was just as stunned by his success. "It is unbelievable and it was like watching a movie out there," he said. "Niall gave him a great ride and never panicked - it is all hard to believe really."

Almost as difficult to comprehend is that, at the 11th attempt, there was again no joy for Tony McCoy, the most successful jump jockey of all time. Riding the 5-1 joint favourite Clan Royal, he fought all the way over the gruelling four and a half miles and 30 fences, forcing his way past the outsider Nil Desperandum in the final furlong to take third place. In a race in which the tension was cranked up by a false start, Nina Carberry, the only woman jockey competing, brought Forest Gunner home in ninth place. One horse was killed. Tyneandthyneagain was among the victims of the charge to the first fence, but it continued riderless. It fell again at the 11th and had to be put down.

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