Improving Don't Panic can step up to next level

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The Independent Online

That experienced and erudite observer, John Gosden, pointed out during the week that as much can be gleaned from what a horse does after it passes the winning post as before. He was talking about his own charge, Derby contender Centennial, at Newbury last year and the fact it took Jimmy Fortune a while to anchor the power beneath him once the race was over. Anyone watching Don't Panic at Doncaster three weeks ago would have seen what he meant. The four-year-old had carried Alan Munro past the St Leger start before he started to drop though the gears.

Don't Panic returns this afternoon to Town Moor. Last time, he won the Spring Mile, the consolation race for those who missed the cut in the Lincoln Handicap. Now, he steps up a grade to the Doncaster Mile. And as fate would have it, the Lincoln Handicap second and third, Blythe Knight and Babodana, are among his rivals.

The ease of Don't Panic's latest success – he beat subsequent winner Benandonner by four lengths in the fastest time of the day – has rather forced the hand of his trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam. "The handicapper has put him up 12lb," he said, "so I have no options. But he's working well and looks well, so we'll give it a go."

If Don't Panic had made the Lincoln, he would have carried 8st 6lb. As it was, he shouldered 9st 8lb to victory in the Spring Mile, charging down the Doncaster straight more than a second faster than the big-race winner, Smokey Oakey, under 13lb more. Blythe Knight, just over a length runner-up, carried top weight of 9st 10lb that day, and has a 7lb pull with Babodana.

All this maths may, or may not, be relevant another day over another course – today's contest is on the round mile – and on slightly quicker ground. But what is undeniable is that Don't Panic (3.35), who has thrived mentally and physically since being gelded, is highly progressive, from an in-form yard and should be capable of a bold show in Listed company.

Another lightly raced, upwardly mobile type to take on more streetwise opposition this afternoon is Chief Editor (3.05), and though he has yet to show his qualities this season, they should be evident after today. The big, strong four-year-old ended last year by winning a competitive sprint at Wolverhampton in adverse circumstances and has Jamie Spencer back in the saddle.

On a largely routine Saturday, before the pulse of the season properly quickens with the Craven meeting at Newmarket this week, there may, too, be flashes of class at Kempton, though they may not be immediately obvious.

The Masaka Stakes, named after the 1948 Oaks heroine who opened her Classic campaign with a win at the Sunbury track, has few pretensions now to being a Guineas trial; but it offers an opportunity for some "black type", so important on the catalogue page for a filly, however softly earned.

The race should not wholly be dismissed; two years ago the field contained Oaks third Rising Cross and subsequent Group One winner Rajeem, three years ago 1,000 Guineas third Vista Bella won and during the Nineties Nicer, Hever Golf Rose and Sil Sila took part.

Whether today's field contains a gem remains to be seen, but it is likely to be further down the line as the only Guineas entry is Love Of Dubai, who already has a Classic placing of sorts, her runner-up spot in the UAE Oaks. Preference is for the well-bred Jazz Jam (2.45). The daughter of Pivotal was a steady improver last season once upped to a mile.

The colt's equivalent, the Easter Stakes, puts forward Classic entries Speedy Dollar and Il Warrd (2,000 Guineas) and Latin Lad (Derby). The last-named, from the stable that has won six of the past 16 runnings, has solid form at this level but, as a son of Hernando, may need farther.

There are good reasons for siding with the Danehill Dancer colt Gaspar Van Wittel (3.20), notably his staying-on third to Guineas second favourite Raven's Pass in the Solario Stakes. His, too, is a stable that knows what it takes to win the prize, having done so with subsequent Guineas runner-up Rebel Rebel three years ago. Since then Simon Callaghan has taken over from his father, Neville.

In the Kempton opener, Heaven Sent (2.10) should repay Cheveley Park Stud's policy of keeping well-bred fillies in training, though her price will benefit none but the heaviest investors.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Varadouro(Doncaster 4.10)

NB: Heaven Sent (Kempton 2.10)

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