Butterfly leaves Fairyhouse all of a flutter

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The legendary Irish punter J P McManus may have, as he said ruefully, left his money with "the boys" at Cheltenham, but he redressed the balance in some style at Fairyhouse yesterday as two Festival failures in his green, white and gold silks made amends. The remarkable Like-A-Butterfly stung the ring and Ground Ball bounced back, each a well-backed favourite and each the recipient of a vintage Tony McCoy ride.

The legendary Irish punter J P McManus may have, as he said ruefully, left his money with "the boys" at Cheltenham, but he redressed the balance in some style at Fairyhouse yesterday as two Festival failures in his green, white and gold silks made amends. The remarkable Like-A-Butterfly stung the ring and Ground Ball bounced back, each a well-backed favourite and each the recipient of a vintage Tony McCoy ride.

Like-A-Butterfly's return to glory in the Powers Gold Cup was a matter of particular satisfaction for her trainer, Christy Roche, who has nursed her back to her best after, firstly, a tendon injury suffered at Aintree two years ago and then a serious bout of illness following her return to action in November with a faultless fencing debut. The easy option in either case would have been retirement - she was, after all, already a triple Grade One winner - but the faith was kept and has now been thoroughly rewarded.

In the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, she appeared not to stay in finishing fifth to Trabolgan but yesterday's two and a half mile test was well within her range and, in beating Forget The Past and the Arkle Trophy fourth Watson Lake established her reputation as one of the best mares of recent seasons. Uniquely for one of her sex, the 11-year-old has now won at the top level in all three spheres of the winter game, with Leopardstown's Champion Bumper, Fairyhouse's Royal Bond Hurdle and Cheltenham's Supreme Novices' Hurdle preceding her latest triumph. Not even Dawn Run managed that.

Those who supported her down to 7-2 must have quailed when Barry Geraghty kicked clear on Forget The Past, but Like-A-Butterfly's courage matches her talent. An error by the leader two out and a crooked approach to the last gave her the chance she needed; seemingly as keen to prevail as McCoy, she took it with two powerful, fluent final leaps and wore down her rival on the run-in to score by half a length.

"There's no such thing as an easy race at Cheltenham," McCoy said, "but once I realised it was a stamina thing there I was not over-hard on her. She's travelled and jumped really well there and did again today. Turning in, I knew I'd catch the one in front, two out I thought I would, but at the last I wasn't so sure. But I kept squeezing, and she answered. I've not ridden many mares better than her."

Even at her age, motherhood is not yet on the cards for the daughter of Montelimar. "She'll go to Punchestown next month, if the ground is not too firm," Roche said, "and I'd hope to have her back next season. She was very sick over Christmas and lost a lot of weight. She's a great mare. They don't come along so often and she's been a great servant."

McCoy's place in Ground Ball's saddle in the Grade A handicap chase was a chance one - the eight-year-old's scheduled rider David Casey suffered a terrible fall in the preceding hurdle race and was taken to hospital with a smashed hip - and after leading three out he needed all his strength to get the Charlie Swan-trained 15-8 shot, a faller in the Grand Annual Chase at Cheltenham, home by half a length and a length from two Grade One winners, Ulaan Baatar and Central House.

On an afternoon for atonement, Justified was the other Festival also-ran to emerge successful, making up for his eighth place when the best-backed of the Irish raiders in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle with a two-length victory under in the Grade Two novices' contest. "He got so wound up in the stables at Cheltenham," said his trainer Dusty Sheehy," "this is the real him."

Those Carberrys dominated the finish of the race in which Casey was hurt, but Nina's 5lb pull on the 7-2 favourite Mansony was not enough to prevent brother Philip beating her on the 20-1 Arthur Moore stablemate Bon Temps Rouler.

* Exeter have called a precautionary 7.30am inspection to decide whether today's meeting can go ahead after heavy rain yesterday. The clerk of the course Barry Johnson said: "Showery and drizzly rain is forecast and if that proves to be accurate, then we will be fine."

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