Christy Roche has described Like-A-Butterfly as “a bit special” after the multiple Grade One-winning mare died following a severe bout of colic.
A winner of 12 of her 17 career starts, the JP McManus-owned Like-A-Butterfly was one of the most popular Irish-trained horses in recent memory.
A winner at Grade One level in the bumper sphere, Roche’s mare was unbeaten in her first five starts over obstacles, raising the roof when justifying favouritism in the 2002 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. A year later she claimed the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and although she disappointed in the Champion Hurdle itself that March, she went on to win three times from five appearances over fences, including the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
She signed off her racing career with a win in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the 2005 Grand National meeting at Aintree. Roche said: “I’ve never trained one better than her. She was a bit special. I can’t think of another mare who has won a Grade One bumper, a Grade One over hurdles and a Grade One chase. She was a great servant.
“We had some great days with her. Winning the Irish Champion Hurdle was special and of course winning in Cheltenham – that’s what you dream about. We have three foals out of her and the dream is that they can be as good as she was.”
Only last week Like-A-Butterfly gave birth to a fourth foal, a colt by legendary Flat stayer Yeats. McManus’s racing manager, Frank Berry, said: “She was a great race mare. She won a Grade One bumper, three Grade Ones over hurdles and a Grade One over fences. Not many do that. She had a lovely colt foal by Yeats last week, but unfortunately she got severe colic and it’s just one of those things.”
Like-A-Butterfly’s death is another blow in a sombre week for McManus, following the fatal fall suffered by his Champion Hurdle hope Darlan at Doncaster on Monday. Berry said: “This week can only get better.”
Meanwhile, Lucinda Russell’s Bold Sir Brian could still line up at Cheltenham, despite being scratched from both the Betfred Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase.
The JLT Specialty Handicap Chase is the likely target at next month’s Festival for the seven-year-old, who took a heavy fall in the Murphy Group Chase at Cheltenham last month. “We’ve been speaking to the owners and we’re going to aim for the big ones at Cheltenham next season. It’s a year too early for him,” said the Kinross handler. “We are going to look at a race at Kelso (the Premier Chase) for him at the start of March, and the JLT Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.”