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Horse Racing - Racing: Johan answers SDS call

Flat racing returned with a bang over the weekend as Doncaster's Lincoln Meeting took centre stage and it was a familiar face that grabbed the headlines as Johan won.

Silvestre De Sousa may be a former champion jockey but he is flying solo this season and he used the Lincoln to showcase all his ability in the saddle.

We look back at the Doncaster showpiece and the other highlights of the weekend's racing action.

De Sousa shines in Lincoln win

Three-time champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa is a man on a mission this season, it seems. The Brazilian won the most recent of his championships in 2018 but he starts into this Flat campaign having lost his positon as retained rider for the powerful King Power Racing operation.

Last week De Sousa urged trainers to 'come and get me' as he prepares for a season of freelancing and he used the opening weekend of the season to showcase his talents.

Johan was a 28/1 chance in the Lincoln for trainer Mick Channon - a long-time supporter of De Sousa since he came to Britain - but that didn't stop him landing the Town Moor showpiece.

Saleymm, amongst the market leaders beside Modern News and Mujtaba, set the pace under Ross Coakley only to be worn down inside the final furlong by the relentless De Sousa on Johan, who was clear by a length and a quarter at the line.

It was a statement success from De Sousa and he was certainly glad to be in the shop window.

"I'm a freelance jockey this year and kicking off with a nice win is always a big help," he said. "I hope all the trainers can look at that and give me support through the season. Mick Channon has always given me plenty of rides through my career and I'm over the moon."

On the evidence of his Doncaster success, De Sousa should likely keep his phone close at hand in the coming weeks and months.

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Guineas coming into firm focus

Mother's Day comes early for O'Brien

Winner of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last season, Aidan O'Brien's Mother Earth got her 2022 campaign off to a winning start by producing a workmanlike success in the Group 3 Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes at the Curragh on Saturday afternoon.

Ryan Moore had to work hard on Mother Earth to get the job done, with front-running five-year-old Insinuendo ensuring it was no walk in the park for the partnership. Mother Earth, however, showed her battling qualities inside the final furlong to open the new season with a win.

The Ballydoyle trainer is likely to target Newbury's Lockinge next, while the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot in June could be a future target for Mother Earth.

Frankie-factor pays off in Dubai

Age is no barrier it seems for Frankie Dettori after the evergreen pilot won the Dubai World Cup on Country Grammer for US trainer Bob Baffert at Meydan on Saturday.

Hot favourite Life Is Good made the running as anticipated in the Dubai feature but he started to run on empty in the home straight as Dettori produced Country Grammer with a surge on his outside to score.

It was 16 years since Dettori had previously won the Dubai World Cup, the Italian scoring at Meydan for the first time, with his previous successes having come at Nad Al Sheeba.

Dettori's previous wins on board Dubai Millennium, Moon Balad and Electrocutionist all came in the famous Godolphin silks and he revealed post-race that he had done some agent-work all by himself to get the leg up on Saturday.

"Once I got a smell of Country Grammer being free, I disturbed Mr Zeddan [owner] in his polo game. He told me to ring Bob [Baffert, trainer], who made me swear I was free to ride," he declared.

"I've known Bob for over 30 years from my time in California and I've galloped horses for him in the past, but I really believe it's my first [race] ride for him."

Henderson hoping for rain

It's not all Flat racing, of course. The jumps season concludes in just under four weeks' time and Nicky Henderson is 7/4 to be crowned champion trainer for the seventh time in his career. You can follow the action via our Sports Live Streaming platform.

A battle with reigning champ Paul Nicholls is likely, though the Seven Barrows supremo isn't crossing off a bid from Willie Mullins to usurp the pair of them. The Closutton handler is 10/1 to be top trainer in Britain this season and has mooted the possibility of ramping up his challenge in the final month of the season.

Henderson has plenty plans for the likes of Jonbon, Epatante, Buveur D'Air and Mister Fisher at next week's Aintree Grand National Festival but he warns that the weather will dictate his approach on Merseyside.

"Paul [Nicholls] wasn't quite as busy at Cheltenham as we were, so I think you'll find he's got rather a fresh team. Willie [Mullins] might be coming and taking us all on, so it could be very interesting," Henderson told the Racing Post

"It's fun but the one thing to bear in mind is that unless it rains I'm not playing and that's that. It's too quick for us at the moment."

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