A bad week that began with the fatal fall of his rising star Darlan at Doncaster on Monday has got worse for JP McManus following the death of his former top-class race mare Like-A-Butterfly.
One of the best mares to grace a racecourse in recent times, the 19-year-old daughter of Montelimar succumbed to a bout of colic, having only given birth to a foal by Yeats last week. During a stunning career that saw her win 12 of her 17 starts, she carried the popular Limerick owner's famous colours to victory in five Grade Ones.
At Cheltenham in 2002, she recorded a memorable Supreme Novices' Hurdle win under Charlie Swan after being backed into 7/4 favouritism and was the first and only mare since Dawn Run to win an Irish Champion Hurdle when Swan coaxed her home by a head from Limestone Lad 10 years ago.
Like-A-Butterfly was retired after winning the Mildmay Novice Chase at the Aintree Grand National meeting in 2005. Her first offspring, Speckled Wood, has been placed in her initial two starts this term, and is entered to run again at Thurles on Wednesday.
Christy Roche, who trained Like-A-Butterfly throughout her career, said yesterday: "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. 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. I'll never forget her."
Ned Buntline, McManus' Noel Meade-trained novice hurdler, has also been ruled out for the season after suffering a fracture at Punchestown on Sunday. With that in mind and despite Defy Logic and Shutthefrontdoor both impressing for the owner in recent days, it was understandable to hear his racing manager Frank Berry declaring that "the week can only get better."
Meanwhile, a fresh hurdle and bumper card has been pencilled in for Fairyhouse on February 27 following the loss of last Saturday's fixture to waterlogging.