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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 April 2007, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Madden aims for National double

By Frank Keogh

Jockey Niall Madden
Madden won the National at his first attempt last year

Jockey Niall "Slippers" Madden believes his mount Numbersixvalverde can become the first horse since Red Rum to win consecutive Grand Nationals.

Madden steered the Irish horse to a six-length victory over the 2005 winner Hedgehunter in last year's big race at Aintree.

And despite carrying 9lbs more in weight this time, the jockey believes the burden will not be his undoing on 14 April.

"I can see him winning again, but everything has to go his way," Madden told BBC Sport.

"Everything has to fall into place, you just have to hope and have your fingers crossed.

"But he will have a chance, given a clear round and everything going according to plan. I can't see the weight beating him."

Numbersixvalverde, trained by Martin Brassil, has been allocated a weight of 11st 3lbs this time, 2lbs more than Hedgehunter carried to victory two years ago.

But Madden reckons he would have probably triumphed last year, even with the extra weight.

"He won by six lengths, going away, last year and he's as good now as he was then," he said.

Madden has followed in the racing footsteps of his family after growing up in Naas, Kildare.

NUMBERSIXVALVERDE
Niall Madden and Numbersixvalverde
Named: After owner's Portuguese villa
Trainer: Martin Brassil
Jockey: Niall Madden
Owner: Bernard Carroll

His father, also a jump jockey called Niall, is known as "Boots" from his riding days when he a wore an oversized pair of boots at the stables of trainer Edward O'Grady.

Niall's nine-year-old brother Tom, who is already riding ponies, answers to "Socks".

"Slippers" had never ridden in the world's most famous steeplechase before last year's heroics, or even won a race in Britain, but you would have struggled to remember that.

Then aged just 20, he kept his mount out of trouble and hit the front with exquisite timing on the 2005 Irish Grand National winner.

He rode the horse out on Thursday and reported him to be in "great old form" ahead of his bid for a repeat win.

Record-breaking Red Rum won the Aintree marathon in 1973, 1974 and 1977 - and was second in the years in between.

If there is one horse that could spoil Numbersixvalverde's chances of doing the double, Madden points to Point Barrow.

He won the Irish National in 2006 and enjoys a similar profile to several of the recent Irish-trained Aintree winners.

SEE ALSO
Grand National 2007 entries
09 Apr 07 |  Horse Racing
Numbersixvalverde wins National
08 Apr 06 |  Horse Racing
Madden hailed after National win
08 Apr 06 |  Horse Racing


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