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Joseph O’Brien is targeting success in the Listed Silver Stakes with Latrobe. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Joseph O’Brien is targeting success in the Listed Silver Stakes with Latrobe. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Joseph O’Brien is targeting success in the Listed Silver Stakes with Latrobe. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

There is unlikely to be any Irish racing in front of spectators until October at the earliest after Irish Champions Weekend and the Listowel Harvest Festival confirmed they will race behind closed doors.

News that the September fixtures will be staged without punters because of continued uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic is another setback to the racing industry during a turbulent time.

Initially, it was hoped that up to 5,000 people might be permitted on tracks by September, but that was wiped out when Phase 4 of the Government's reopening roadmap was paused until next month.

Irish Champions Weekend, scheduled for Leopardstown and the Curragh on September 12/13, houses six Group One contests, but they will take place in splendid isolation, while Listowel's hugely popular seven-day meeting, slated for September 20-26, will also take place without a crowd with the local Kerry economy sure to take a significant hit.

Meanwhile, there could be a tantalising prospect in store with staying king Stradivarius set to clash with Irish Derby hero Santiago in the Goodwood Cup next Tuesday.

John Gosden's Stradivarius, fresh from a career-best performance when romping home in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, could write more history at Goodwood. If the six-year-old prevails, he will become the first horse to win four runnings of the Group One contest, but he won't have it easy.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Santiago followed up a smooth success at Royal Ascot when taking the Irish Classic in dramatic fashion and the potential battle between the king and his young pretender is a tough assignment in Gosden's view.

"Stradivarius now faces trying to give 15lb to a Derby winner which is obviously a very considerable challenge. This will be no penalty kick and you don't normally find Derby winners turning up in the Goodwood Cup," Gosden said.

Elsewhere, the action at Leopardstown today is headed by the Listed Silver Stakes (3.30) where 2018 Irish Derby hero Latrobe bids for just his second triumph since he handed Joseph O'Brien his first Classic win.

O'Brien's five-year-old was well-held on his seasonal reappearance in the Group Two Mooresbridge Stakes and the likely favourite is taken on in a contest which Jim Bolger has landed four times in the past decade.

Bolger is double-handed this time around with Flight Risk and Verbal Dexterity, but this may go the way of the progressive Bowerman. Just touched off in a similar event at the Curragh last month, Ado McGuinness' six-year-old is in the form of his life and will take some stopping in the hands of Billy Lee.

Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley were the stars at Nass yesterday with their red-hot form continuing as Group One winner Millisle (9/4) got back to winning ways when landing the Group Three Ballyogan Stakes.

Irish Independent