Doubts about Roche pair


IRISH RACING/News and preview: Christy Roche yesterday warned that the unbeaten star novice Like-A-Butterfly will not appear at the Punchestown festival if the ground is quicker than good to soft.

The Curragh trainer also made the same proviso about running the top stayer Bannow Bay against his old rival Limestone Lad.

The possible non-appearance of the two Roche stars would be a blow to the festival which begins in just 12 days' time.

Like-A-Butterfly's sole Punchestown entry is for the Mennolly Homes Champion Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles on the second day.

"The mare is in grand form and we have just been keeping her ticking over since Cheltenham.

"But unless the going is good to soft, she, and Bannow Bay, won't run. There is a while to go yet before we have to make up our minds but if the course does come up dry, we'll just call it a day for the season," Roche said.

The ground at Punchestown yesterday was described as "good" with only some light rain forecast over the weekend.

"On the basis of that we will make plans and see if we will need to used the sprinklers after the weekend," said the track's racing manager, Richie Galway.

One Roche star who is almost certain to make a festival appearance, however, is Grimes who will try and again lift the crown for the Emo Oil Champion Hurdle on the fourth day.

Runner-up to Ilnamar in the Aintree Hurdle on Saturday, Grimes has emerged in good shape from his first start in months.

"Charlie (Swan) thinks that race will have brought him on a lot. I don't mind the ground with Grimes. In fact as he gets older I wouldn't be complaining if there was a good dig in it," said Roche.

The action is at Tipperary this afternoon with a mixed card that features a pretty hot five-furlong handicap.

The topweight Final Exam ran 10th in the Abbaye on his last start but his stablemate, Tiger Royal, a winner over six furlongs on Sunday, appears the stable fancy.

The forecast "heavy" ground will be a big factor even in sprints and Miracle Ridge, six times a five-furlong winner in his long career, looks to have a winning weight, especially on the back of a Cork success last time.

Aidan O'Brien has run two juveniles so far this season, Tomahwak and Statue Of Liberty, and both have won. The trend suggests another winner with the Storm Cat newcomer Ontario in the opener.

O'Brien has already had five winners this season from just 12 runners and reports he is likely to have runners at next week's Craven meeting at Newmarket.

However, John Oxx has already notched up seven victories and John Murtagh's pick of Brocheta from the Oxx trio in the fillies' maiden looks significant.