Dan Barber is Wednesday's pundit. Here he picks out his best bets on the afternoon.
"Taunton features the rather unseasonal ‘firm (good to firm in places)’ going description, but Flat-bred State Department (13:40) has no problems handling such conditions..."
It's rather disingenuous to get the excuses in first, but when the two horses you fancied most at the prices- Tresor du Bontee and Grand Gigolo- are both taken out it does rather take the sheen off matters. Thankfully, though, there's plenty to go at so far as today's National Hunt racing is concerned, meaning alternatives weren't too far from hand.
Taunton features the rather unseasonal 'firm (good to firm in places)' going description, but Flat-bred State Department (13:40) has no problems handling such conditions and there's just a chance he's running himself back into form following an abortive spell chasing. At Exeter, on his most recent outing, State Department did best of the rest behind a well-treated pair in Ni Sin E Mo Ainm (runner-up since) and Yabadabadoo, shaping much better than he had the time before, and it's impossible to ignore the fact he's now fallen to a mark some 7 lb lower than when a close third at Fontwell back in the summer. Regal Flow has to prove himself on ground this firm, while conditions could also be an issue for favourite Dazzling Rita, who's been fragile down the years and has avoided faster than good since returning.
Worcester's card features a smattering from Timeform's Jumps Horses To Follow publication, but it's one who avoided a place in the 'Fifty' that catches the eye in the 15:20 there. The horse in question is Supapowers, lightly raced and a promising, well-backed second to one who hugged the inner throughout in a handicap over Sedgefield's marathon extended 27-furlong trip a couple of weeks back. Supapowers can race from the same mark here and, crucially, has already shown her worth over brush hurdles here and at Southwell. Cash For Steel is still on a good mark, but her jumping looks a likely drawback over brush hurdles and it's difficult to know which Realta Mo Croi will turn up from one day to the next, suggesting the biggest danger may come from Toot Sweet following a couple of fairly encouraging runs since returning.
Back State Department in the 13:40 Taunton
Back Supapowers in the 15:20 Worcester