04/07/2006 11:00PM

Upset in Grand National


Numbersixvalverde outgamed co-favorites Hedgehunter and Clan Royal to nail the $1.22 million Grand National Steeplechase Handicap at Aintree on Saturday, giving Niall "Slippers" Madden the victory in his first ride in the 4 1/2-mile race.

The three principals jumped the last two of the 30 Grand National fences virtually together, with the 11-1 Numbersixvalverde landing over the last marginally ahead of his rivals, both of whom were sent off at 5-1. As they neared the elbow, however, Numbersixvalverde gave defending champ Hedgehunter the slip, eventually crossing the line six lengths to the good. Hedgehunter finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Clan Royal, who, after being outpaced on the run-in, just got back up for third by a short head over the 33-1 Nil Desperandum.

A 10-year-old Irish-bred gelding, Numbersixvalverde is trained in Ireland by Martin Brassil for owner O.B.P Carroll. Winless since the 3 5/8-mile Irish Grand National in March 2005, he had finished third or fourth in his last three outings in shorter handicap chases. His ability to stay carried the day, however, while Hedgehunter, who was spotting the winner 20 pounds, was not quite as sharp as last year, when he carried 13 fewer pounds to victory in the race.

Only nine of the 40 starters finished the race.