One of the formative chapters in the construction of a large portion of my life revolving around horse racing came to an end today when Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden hung up his riding Boots and went for the Slippers after a wonderfully decorated career in the plate.
From Irish racing’s ‘footwear family’ – Dad Niall ‘Boots’ and brother Tom ‘Socks’ having great careers in their own right – ‘Slippers’ attained his first breakthrough in the saddle when driving Numbersixvalverde to win the Aintree Grand National for trainer Martin Brasill in 2006.
Madden first came to the attention of this writer when he was number two retained rider for Noel Meade. As well as winning the National at the Liverpool venue, he achieved Grade One success that same year courtesy of Jazz Messenger – trained by Noel – and Nickname – also in the care of Brassil. Personally speaking, aside from having a few bob on his National victor, the clearest and favourite other memory of the Kildare man at work, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the occasion of what, in fairness, was an unexpected success aboard More Rainbows.
Noel ran two in the race that day and – naturally – as stable jockey Paul Carberry had the choice of the Tu Va duo and plumped for Definite Spectacle. Which seemed to have been perfectly vindicated as the field stampeded down towards the second last at Ballybrit before pointing up the hill for home. Mrs Pat Sloane’s horse appeared to be still hard on the bit with his rider’s stance in the irons typically confidently motionless.
Until disaster struck. The Definite Article gelding clipped heels with somebody in front of him and put Paul into the west of Ireland sod. Thankfully, for reasons I never did find out, it was the first time the old sage here said to me “Noel has two in it, you better have a few quid on the other one as well”. If one was absolutely pressed for a reason as to why the second flutter was put on it was probably down to the fact quite a few members of the winning syndicate, Neighbours Racing Club, mostly based in and around the Dunshaughlin area, are good friends of ours.
There was certainly a pot of gold at the end of that particular Rainbow.