Racing Post's guide to picking winners this Saturday

Andrea Atzeni

Andrea Atzeni has a tremendous record at Doncaster

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By keith melrose  5:55PM 21 OCT 2016 

WITH early-season jumps and tail-end Flat to negotiate in equal measure this weekend, we offer a handful of the best pointers to start off your weekend’s punting.

O’Brien’s the man, but look out for Atzeni

Aidan O’Brien’s tremendous record in the Racing Post Trophy (3.50pm, Doncaster) owes plenty to the type of blueblood that flows to his yard more than any other: smart middle-distance types that, at least at two, often prove best over a mile.

O’Brien, who has seven Trophy wins, is chasing the record for most top-level wins in a year, but that owes something to him having already thrown his biggest two-year-old darts, such as Churchill and Caravaggio.

Of his three in this year’s renewal, Yucatan and The Anvil were beaten in lower Group races last time, while Finn McCool took four runs to win a race of any sort. On evidence so far, Camelot or St Nicholas Abbey they ain’t.

Jockey Andrea Atzeni has won the last three renewals of this race and goes for four on second-favourite Rivet. Atzeni’s remarkable record at Doncaster can be explained part of the way – it’s a fair track and he’s a fine rider – but he does demand that little bit of extra respect here, especially as he’s on the horse with the best form, courtesy of Rivet’s Champagne Stakes win.

Don’t sweat an absence at Cheltenham

In most of the big races at Cheltenham, as in most decent jumps races at this time of year, punters have to weigh up the merits of having had a recent run against the truism that summer jumps races just are not as strong.

There is no silver bullet, but modern trainers are better than ever at readying horses after a break and ever more interested in getting any sort of win at Cheltenham, so class tends to out in more cases than not.

Evidence in recent renewals of the 3m1f handicap chase on Saturday (1.50) certainly points that way. The six winners this decade had a total of one prior run in the autumn between them.

Look too for a bit of star quality in this race. Balthazar King (thrice) and Midnight Chase are among recent winners.

Balthazar King

Balthazar King: popular chaser won the Cheltenham opener three times

This year’s top weight, Henryville, has been kept ticking over through the summer but has not really been able to show his hand. He was still there when being brought down in the Summer Plate and shaped as well as any at Chepstow two weeks ago.

Keep it in the van

Henryville ran out of straight to catch the principals at Chepstow, so he will need to be moved up a lot sooner at Cheltenham, especially on the old course used for the Showcase.

Prominent racers generally do well on the old course, the sharper of Cheltenham’s two regulation courses, which goes against expectations received from both its essentially galloping nature and the competitive make-up of the races.

That could also play out in the 2m handicap chase (3.30). There are plenty of front-runners among the 15 declarations, but even taking each other on to an extent need not be a terminal error, as we have seen on more than a few occasions before in big handicaps on the old course such as the Grand Annual and Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Some of these forward-going horses are also bang in form, such as Owen Na View and Casino Markets. Always On The Run and Fox Norton also made all when last seen in the spring.

Newbury not chaotic

Received wisdom says that at this time of year, when the ground has normally turned distinctly autumnal, that form lines on the Flat begin to unravel pretty quickly.

A look at how results on Satruday’s Newbury card have played out in recent years goes against this. Only one horse priced bigger than 9-2 has won the feature St Simon Stakes (2.20) since 2008.

That could be expected up to a point, as that race attracts a certain type of horse, but winners of the big handicap (2.50) and Listed Radley Stakes (3.20) that follow both show a similar pattern, with the SPs not painting the picture of late-season chaos we might imagine.

All of the above comes before considering the dry autumn we have had. At the time of writing, Newbury is good to soft. The last time this meeting was run away from soft or heavy ground was 2011.

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