Bunk Off Early
©Healy Racing Photos
Members of the Supreme Horse Racing Club are hoping Bunk Off Early and Kemboy can earn themselves return trips to the Cheltenham Festival after encouraging performances on their respective chasing debuts over the festive period.
The Willie Mullins-trained Bunk Off Early was a leading contender for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park last March after finding only stablemate Bacardys too strong in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown, but finished down the field and disappointed again at the Punchestown Festival.
He was subsequently found to be suffering from colic and had to undergo life-saving surgery in the spring.
The roan gelding returned to Leopardstown for his seasonal reappearance and fencing bow late last month and while he was a beaten favourite, he was far from disgraced in finishing second to Tycoon Prince.
Steve Massey, racing manager for the owners, said: "We were thrilled to have Bunk Off Early back on the track and we were delighted with how he ran.
"We'll never know for sure whether the colic is what stopped him running up to his best at Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring, but we think it probably was and his work before he ran at Leopardstown a couple of weeks ago had been very encouraging.
"You never really know until you run them, but it was great to see him jump well on the whole and finish off his race, the first time he had done so since the Deloitte last February.
"He's come out of the race well and should come on a lot for the run.
"We're hoping to have him out in another beginners chase over two miles before the end of the month and that will tell us a lot about where we're heading with him."
Bunk Off Early is a 40-1 shot with William Hill for the Arkle Trophy on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Fellow Closutton inmate Kemboy, who finished a respectable fifth in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, kicked off his chasing career at Fairyhouse on New Year's Day and after jumping well and cutting out much of the running, was mowed down late by the 158-rated hurdler Sutton Place.
Massey added: "We were absolutely delighted with him.
"He had 16lb to find on hurdle ratings with Sutton Place, but he jumped brilliantly and gave him a real race right up until the final fence.
"He made a mistake two out and was a bit big at the last and was beaten by a better horse on the day, but he'll come on for the run.
"We're also looking to get him out in another beginners' chase before the end of January, probably over two and a half miles, and we'll make plans for him after that."
Kemboy is 25-1 for the JLT Novices' Chase with bet365 and is also priced up for the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at 20-1 with William Hill.