Mike Moon (The Citizen)
Four-year-old Litigation showed his abundant potential by winning the Victory Moon Stakes over 1800m at Turffontein at the weekend.
When a thoroughbred breeder opts to take ownership of a foal he or she has produced, watch out.
Most of these folk are in the business of selling livestock for as much money as possible and tend not to get sentimental and acquisitive about beasts eating them out of house and home.
Owning a runner in training can quickly erode stud farm profits; back end of the nag, front end of the cheque tends to be the business model.
If an item on the production line catches the expert eye and makes a breeder say, ‘I fancy a bit of that action’, it must mean the little critter has something special.
This is what happened with Avontuur Thoroughbred Farm boss Pippa Mickleburgh in 2020 with a colt called Litigation, when he was sold off the farm at the height of the pandemic and the suspension of live auction sales.
Leading racehorse owner Laurence Wernars and regular partner Harry Willson were the buyers, but Mickleburgh managed to secure herself a share of the youngster.
She had cause to opt in beyond the fact that Litigation was a good looker, for she’d been the brains behind another son of the sire Greys Inn, a horse called Legal Eagle. The three-time Queen’s Plate champion and two-time Equus Horse of the Year inspired a wee bit of confidence.
A story in Sporting Post quotes her: “Litigation was the most gorgeous foal, so much so that I sent a picture of him to Sean Tarry and told him, this is going to be your next Legal Eagle.”
This might not have proven entirely true – thus far. Litigation was only fourth in the 2022 SA Derby, a race won by his illustrious paternal half-brother Legal Eagle.
But four-year-old Litigation still has plenty of time on his hands and he showed his abundant potential by bouncing back to his best youthful form when winning the Victory Moon Stakes over 1800m at Turffontein at the weekend.
The colt – now serendipitously trained by Tarry – is among the remaining 43 entries for the Betway Summer Cup, Joburg’s biggest race, to be run at the end of November.
However, when the log of likely runners was released last week, he wasn’t among the top 25 most favoured for the final line-up by the handicappers.
The manner in which he outgalloped Durban July champion Sparkling Water over the final 200m of the Turffontein straight on Sunday will surely have changed the minds of those august gentlemen who crunch numbers.
Sparkling Water was in need of the exercise and will improve a lot by Summer Cup-time, but it was an eye-opening effort, nonetheless.
When the first Summer Cup entries were announced in late September, Litigation was quoted by bookmakers at 50-1 and better. By the time the final log came out, he’d been backed into 30-1, despite two anonymous comeback runs following a four-month break – hinting at some insider knowledge and hunches.
Those two outings were over distances short of his best, while four wins in his first nine runs – which got him into the Derby – suggested there might be more to come once he’d grown out of adolescence.
Immediately after the Victory Moon triumph, Litigation was slashed to 12-1 in the ante-post market.
Avontuur’s Pippa Mickleburgh will probably be feeling vindicated for keeping a piece of her “gorgeous” foal for herself.