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Rupert Wyman 22nd Feb 2009 - 21:46

Ross Brierley previews 4:00 Hereford

William Hill's Ross Brierley gives his views on Monday's horse racing at Hereford. Read below for his thoughts.

An ordinary Monday card at Hereford is given a bit of spit and polish at 4.00 with the "Jumprite" Handicap Hurdle for horses rated up to 145 over the smaller obstacles, and a classy field line up for a crack at the thirteen grand on offer to the winner.

It's fair to say that after finishing fifth in last year's Supreme Novices Hurdle, the Stewart family probably had slightly higher hopes for South African import Rippling Ring than a race like this. Unfortunately, after a terribly disappointing reappearance at Aintree, where he was a well beaten fifth at odds-on, and a middle-of-the-road effort in the Greatwood Hurdle, sights have been lowered for the formerly classy flat recruit.

He gets in off a mark of 136 here, the handicapper refusing to drop him a single pound since his two defeats this year, and in having to give a minimum of 9lbs to all his rivals today, he could be found wanting at the business end of things once again.

Matuhi is another horse to have been given no mercy by the handicapper. Well beaten in three handicap hurdles this season, his mark hasn't budged an inch. Based on his novice runs behind Numide and Hold Em, he probably is a 125 horse, but the sparkle has gone for the moment at least, and he is best watched.

Had the Brendan Powell yard been in better form, Benfleet Boy would have been of definite interest at what could turn out to be a decent price. A winner off 74 on the flat, he was thrown head over heels into the deep end for his hurdles debut behind Cockney Trucker at Newbury, a race that has worked out very well in the mean time. He then won a half-decent novice hurdle at Doncaster in convincing style before coming unstuck under a penalty, but still finishing a good third behind Quartz De Thaix, who has doubled up since. A mark of 125 seems fair, but the Powell yard just hasn't been firing lately, and there will be stronger contenders today.

This brings us to the two horses who we can definitely say are in tip-top form, both of whom are hoping to notch their hat-trick here today.

We'll start with Oldrik, who has enjoyed a fruitful campaign so far and bids for his fourth hurdles victory of the season for the Hobbs yard. His mark has risen 23lb to 123 after a cracking year, and given the manner of his victory over the progressive Night Cru last time, there could be more improvement to come.

However, it's hard to get away from the Trevor Hemmings owned, Venetia Williams trained CARRICKBOY, who can take this contest on the way to bigger and better things. Arriving here with a 7lb penalty for a comprehensive victory at Market Rasen last time out, it's fair to say his handicap mark may well take a battering once he is re-assessed, so it's easy to see why connections have bowled up at Hereford for this valuable race.

Ignoring the farcical race at Towcester, where he slipped up and ejected jockey Aidy Coleman before he'd even jumped a hurdle, his only defeat over hurdles was over 2m4f at Fakenham on his hurdles debut. He jumped out to his right that day and it was no surprise to see him much prefer going the other way round when sluicing through the mud at Taunton and Market Rasen. He practically walked home on the bridle last time out, beating a field of exposed but talented handicappers, and with the Venetia Williams team in such good form, he should go in again today.

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