Liege has always been highly regarded by champion trainer Sean Tarry but when the pressure came on at feature level he failed to deliver until the Jubilee Handicap in June, when he finally put it all together to win well.
He was thrown in at the deep end at Grade 1 level this year but was outclassed in the Cape Derby, the SA Classic and the Daily News 2000. However, he found himself in more suitable company in the Grade 3 Jubilee Handicap over 1800m at Turffontein. Midfield as they cornered, he ran on steadily to lead 300m out and went away to beat Rainy Day Blues by 1.10 lengths. Fourth-placed Judicial came out next time to win a Pinnacle race before running second to Marinaresco in the Grade 1 Champions Cup, while sixth-placed Jubilee Line won a 1400m Novice race next time. So the form has been well franked even though only three of his conquests have run since.
It has been 2½ months since that race but Liege should be fit enough to do himself justice IN Race 6 at the Vaal today, a MR 100 Handicap over 1600m on the Vaal Outside track. He will be ridden by Piere Strydom, who will be hoping for success in his first meeting of the season.
Netflix could be his biggest danger with only 52kg to carry, including Juan Paul van der Merwe, who won two races at Turffontein last Saturday.
Trainer Lucky Houdalakis also saddles eight-year-old British-bred French import Albion, who makes his South African debut and might need the run after 726 days off the track.
Netflix has not raced since May, when he beat Seven Single by 0.50 lengths over 1700m at this track. The form of that race is questionable, but he had previously run a 0.40-length second to High Drama over 2000m and the form of that race was franked. He has also placed in extended races down this straight and with only 52kg to shoulder, should make his presence felt.
Topweight Pivotal Pursuit represents the in-form Gary Alexander-Andrew Fortune combination. He got 1.5kg from Judicial in a 1600m Pinnacle race in July and finished 0.60 lengths behind Tyrone Zackey’s runner. Liege got 7.5kg and beat Judicial 4.70 lengths in June. With Liege getting 1.5kg from Pivotal Pursuit this time, there is not much to choose between the two.
National Key has placed in his last two starts and had excuses over this course and distance last time out when he did not start well but was taken to the lead. Little wonder he had no reserves when Front Rank (placed next time) swept past him and put him away by three lengths.
Before that the Brian Wiid-trained seven-year-old clipped heels but still managed third behind impressive winner Will Pays over 1450m at Turffontein. He seems to be holding form well and could again earn a cheque.
Liege’s stablemate Halve The Deficit has done well in better races than this in the past. He is 5.5kg better off with Pivotal Pursuit for a 1.70 beating when they were second and sixth behind Judicial and is weighted to turn the tables. It has been some time since he finished in the money, though, and his attitude to his job needs a bit of adjustment if he is to make an impact.