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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

Stalingrad strategy is working for Litigation

Big bay gelding is hitting top form ahead of the KZN season.

Litigation might be a barrel of laughs in the Zuma household, but not in most. So why name a lovely looking thoroughbred foal Litigation?

His father is bay stallion Greys Inn, so the name is apparently a wobbly rendition of Gray’s Inn, a London barristers’ hang-out; with possibly a grey ancestor somewhere along the line.

Despite the gloomy moniker, things are looking bright for Litigation the horse.

Owned by the Wernars family, Harry Willson and Pippa Mickleburgh and trained by Sean Tarry, the five-year-old has come into eye-catching form ahead of the KwaZulu-Natal winter season.

After recent back-to-back victories – in the Listed Richard Maponya Handicap and the Grade 3 London News Stakes, both over the Turffontein 1800m – Litigation has sparked more-than-usual interest in the august pages of Sporting Post and Turf Talk. Notably, he is spoken of as a “July horse”.

Durban July

The official handicappers have also taken note of the strapping fellow’s form, shoving up his merit rating from 111 to 115 following his start-to-finish in the London News on Saturday.

Will this be enough to get him into the 2024 Hollywoodbets Durban July on 7 July?

Some long-range punters think so. Since pre-nomination July betting opened last week, Litigation’s odds with Hollywoodbets have halved from 66-1 to 33-1. Betway and WSB have him even shorter.

The odds will fall further if Gavin Lerena is booked to ride: he has won on him in six of his eight victories.

Tarry identified Litigation as a July hopeful in the then colt’s three-year-old year, but he didn’t make the field – nor did he the following year, 2023, when again on the fringes with six wins in 20-something starts.

Then they did make the cut – as in the connections opted for gelding. It took the horse a few months to get used to more breeze in the nether regions; then it became plain sailing.

Co-owner Pippa Mickleburgh bred Litigation at Avontuur Stud and was so enamoured of the newborn leggy foal that she sent Tarry a photo of him, adding, “Here’s your new Legal Eagle”, referencing the trainer’s top horse at the time.

Legal Eagle, twice an Equus Horse of the Year, was also by Greys Inn – who, of course, won the 2004 Durban July. Is this a case of legal precedent, m’lud?

It may have taken Litigation a bit of time to realise his potential but, as with any good Stalingrad strategy, you’ve gotta keep plugging away.

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