Kemboy set for Cheltenham

Kemboy appears to have booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival after performing well in defeat at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Airlie Beach in the Supreme colours

The Supreme Horse Racing Club-owned five-year-old made a successful start to his jumping career with Willie Mullins at Limerick in early December and was stepped up to Grade Two level on Irish Champion Hurdle day.

While he proved no match for streetwise stable companion Let's Dance, there was a lot to like about the way Kemboy came home to finish a clear second and connections feel he deserves to be part of the Mullins army destined for Prestbury Park in March.

Steve Massey, racing manager for the owners, said: "We were delighted with how he ran on Sunday.

"It was only his second run over hurdles, whereas Let's Dance was having her ninth run and is a second-season novice with plenty of big-race experience, having run in races like the Triumph Hurdle.

"Our horse made a couple of mistakes, but was right in contention coming to the second-last where he made a blunder and lost momentum.

"He was a little bit green at the top of the straight, but finished off his race really well and you have to be pleased with finishing second in a Grade Two on just your second run.

"Hopefully he's done enough to book his ticket across the water. Willie's initial thoughts were to step up to three miles in the Albert Bartlett, but he's also been entered in the Neptune.

"I'm sure no decision will be made until much nearer the time, but he's a horse we think a lot of and he should have learnt plenty from his run the other day."

Kemboy could be part of a strong team of runners for the burgeoning syndicate at Cheltenham.

Heading the squad is unbeaten novice Airlie Beach, who has been entered in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Neptune.

However, the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle, for which she heads the market, remains her likely target.

Bunk Off Early, an impressive winner on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown over Christmas, is also in the Supreme and the Neptune and could test his Festival credentials in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday week.

"He's a really nice horse and he was really good at Leopardstown," said Massey.

"He's going to have to step up in grade now and we'll learn out a bit more about him when he does.

"The Deloitte is one of a few possible options for him."

High-class mare Listen Dear has won her last six starts, most recently landing a Grade Three at Cork in emphatic style.

She is entered in the Mares' Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.

Massey added: "She's in good form and the plan is for her to run in a Listed mares' chase at Naas a week on Saturday (February 11).

"We'll see how she gets on there before deciding whether she could run at the Festival."

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