Nash Rawiller has never been one to back down from a challenge and after a momentum-building double yesterday the champion Australian rider says he is gearing up for a late-season push to shore up a spot in the Sha Tin jockeys’ room.
A three-time champion in Sydney, Rawiller has struggled to find a groove at times in his new base since arriving at the start of last season, but wins on Expedite and Diamond Dragon have the heavyweight pumped-up for a big few months.
“Of course I want to stay, but more importantly I really want to justify my place here with a lot more winners before the end of the season,” he said after his second double this term.
“I feel like I have been riding well over the last month to six weeks, but without much luck - a winner here or there, but without really making my mark - so it was nice to put two wins together.”
After suspension stymied the start of Rawiller’s first season, he did well to finish in the top 10 of the jockeys’ championship with 28 victories, but his second term has been a battle so far and the 40-year-old had just 13 wins going into yesterday’s meeting.
A three-meeting suspension starting with Wednesday’s Happy Valley fixture comes at an awkward time but Rawiller believes he is better placed now in terms of support from trainers and all-important owners.
“The suspension is a little bit unfortunate but I really feel like I have made better connections, it is one of the biggest challenges here,” he said. “I have the support now to be able to get some decent rides, and stay on horses too - I feel like there is a lot more confidence from owners.”
One of Rawiller’s biggest supporters has been Paul O’Sullivan, with Expedite’s dirt success the jockey’s fifth win for the stable this season.
O’Sullivan even joked that “Joao Moreira probably wouldn’t have stuck with this horse” after the seven-year-old made all at double figure odds
“He is one of those typical Hong Kong horses - he wins and goes up in the ratings, and then he works his way down to a rating where he is competitive and can win again,” O’Sullivan said after the horse’s fifth career win. “It’s a credit to the horse, but a credit to the Hong Kong system as well, that he has now won HK$4 million.”
Even though it had been more than a year since Expedite’s last win, it was off a mark of 58, a similar rating to where he will now find himself again, and Rawiller might yet stick with the gelding for a few starts yet.
“He was unlucky last time, he was pushed wide and stayed there, it was a forgive run. Today he was able to get to the lead, hold it and find a rhythm, and from there I knew from a long way out that he was going to be very hard to get past,” he said.
“I thought he would be competitive, he is no superstar but if he has things fall into place then he can win. If he draws well in a fast-run race he could still be competitive.”
Looking more progressive but limited in his own way is straight track winner Diamond Dragon, who returned to the specialist course after a couple of unsuccessful attempts around a turn.
Trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai fears the four-year-old might be limited to the 1,000m at Sha Tin too, but was happy to have got away with a win, especially after drawing the dreaded barrier one down the straight.
“He doesn’t turn very well, he is hard to control around a bend,” Lui said.