Approaching the last the 5/1 joint favourite Hedgehunter and Ruby Walsh looked likely to reward their many supporters but Numbersixvalverde scooted away under Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden to win the 2006 Grand National (pictured).
Hedgehunter, the winner in 2005 for Willie Mullins, could only finish six lengths behind him in second under top weight. He was giving the winner 18lb.
A length further back it was a much closer contest for third. A photo was needed to confirm that AP McCoy had stolen third place on the Jonjo O’Neill trained joint favourite, Clan Royal (5/1). AP’s relentless drive helped him to beat Nil Desperandum (33/1) by a short head on the line. O’Neill also saddled Risk Accessor (66/1) who finished fifth a distant fifth.
A winning National debut for jockey and trainer
Winning trainer, the County Kildare based Martin Brassil had enjoyed plenty of success at home but he had never sent out a horse at Aintree. He seemed slightly shocked after the race saying it was ‘unbelievable’ and ‘like watching a movie’.
His 20-year-old jockey had never won in Britain or tackled Aintree’s most famous fences. Madden said long before the race that he would not want to swap his horse for any other runner – and four of them were more fancied in the Grand National betting. He had good reason to be confident. His 10-year-old mount had won the Irish National on more testing ground a year earlier and had never fallen in his life.
Madden was elated after the race describing it as a ‘magic’ ride. He had walked the course with his dad (the ex-jockey ‘Boots’ Madden) who told him to hunt round the first circuit and not to rush things. It was good advice. He was delighted with the way his horse had jumped and travelled. Brassil praised him for the ride he had given ‘and never panicked’.
It was a first trip across the Irish Sea for Numbersixvalverde. This son of Broken Hearted out of a Le Bavard dam was named after his owner, Bernard Carroll’s, holiday home in Portugal. Fortunately his horse obviously enjoyed a bit of travel too.
How did the race unfold?
When the field finally got away after Ross Comm (16/1) had caused a false start Native Upmanship (100/1) was noticeably slow to get going. The same cannot be said of the rest of the field. After the cavalry charge to the first Royal Auclair (33/1), Innox (10/1), Juveigneur (25/1) and Tyneandthyneagain (100/1) hit the deck. Whispered Secret (100/1) blundered badly and unseated the usually adhesive Rodi Greene. Cornish Rebel (22/1) was seriously hampered and jumped rather cautiously afterwards.
Shotgun Willy (33/1) looked to be in much the safest place in the lead under Andrew Tinkler. Behind him Baron Windrush (66/1) made a hash of the third and dislodged Carl Llewellyn. The over-eager Ross Comm went at the fourth. Ebony Light (50/1) was not far off the pace when he fell at the next. He got up, apparently undamaged unlike his jockey Stephen Craine who was sent to hospital with a broken collarbone. Alan Dempsey had Just In Debt (50/1) anchored towards the back of the field and was the only faller at Bechers.
Whilst Shotgun Willy was jumping well at the head of affairs, Le Duc (33/1) made a mistake at the Canal Turn and unseated Jamie Moore who had lost a stirrup. Ballycassidy (80/1) had been prominent from the off and took over the lead at the ninth under Leighton Aspell. Hedgehunter was not far from the pace unlike Clan Royal and Numbersixvalverde who were both taking a relaxed approach for the first circuit.
Silver Birch (40/1), saddled by Paul Nicholls, was going well when he encountered traffic problems at the Chair and fell. His stablemate, Heros Collonges (66/1) was midfield when he was hampered and ended his partnership with John McNamara.
The Chair also ended the chances of the strongly-fancied Jack High (9/1). Trained by Ted Walsh, he was further back when he made a mess of things and unshipped David Casey. Garvivonnian (11/1) also made a mistake at the rear and was sensibly pulled up by Garrett Cotter after jumping the water. Marcus Foley called it a day on Nicky Henderson’s Iris Royal (100/1) at the same point as Jason Maguire on Lord Of Illusion (33/1), who had bled. Shotgun Willy had weakened after his front running effort and was pulled before the 18th.
Inca Trail (40/1) was faring much better and moving up through the field after the water under Brian Harding. Joes Edge (20/1) was also making progress. Cornish Rebel and Le Roi Miguel (150/1) were going in the opposite direction and both pulled up before the 19th as was Direct Access. The 14-year-old 2004 National winner Amberleigh House (50/1) had hardly featured and was pulled up by Graham Lee after the 20th where Haut De Gamme (25/1) hit the deck.
Risk Accessor had been making steady headway since the 13th and continued it despite making hard work of the water. Meanwhile Numbersixvalverde was travelling well and was not far off the pace. Sir Oj (33/1) was out the back when he fell at second Bechers, the 22nd.
At the other end of the field, Ballycassidy had established an advantage of some six lengths when he unfortunately capsized at Valentines (the 25th), leaving Hedgehunter in the lead and Clan Royal in second. Numbersixvalverde gradually moved into third and the trio moved away from what remained of the field.
Native Upmanship had no luck in running after his slow start and, after jumping dramatically to the right at the 26th, refused at the next. Ted Walsh’s second string, Rince Ri (100/1) had been at the business end of the race until Bechers second time and was running low on fuel at the back when he also refused at the 27th.
Martin Pipe’s Therealbandit (50/1) was also feeling the effects of his earlier efforts and was pulled up before the 27th by Richard Johnson. His stablemate Iznogoud (200/1) and Colnel Rayburn (50/1) were also pulled up.
Only nine of the 40 horses that set out finished. The last to cross the line was the amateur jockey, Nina Carberry, on Richard Ford’s Forest Gunner (33/1). Puntal (66/1), Joes Edge and Inca Trail also completed.
Fancied horses took the first three places and plenty of punters were happy but, thanks to Numbersixvalverde’s 2006 Grand National victory, the bookies would not be cancelling their holiday plans.