After a stop-start first third of the season, a more settled Nash Rawiller is ready to show his best, with the champion Australian jockey receiving an extension of his licence to the end of the term.
Even though Tuesday's licensing committee's decisions seemed a fait accompli and will be followed by more announcements in the new year, the official confirmation came as a relief for the three-time Sydney premiership winner after a spate of careless-riding suspensions limited his output over the past three months.
The 40-year-old came to Hong Kong committed to riding full-time throughout his first season, enrolling his two teenage children in high school, but has only competed at 11 of the 29 meetings for an underwhelming return of four wins from 98 rides.
"It was terrific news; now I can really concentrate for the rest of the season and start stringing a few winners together," Rawiller said. "I made my mind up three or four months ago that the time was right to come here and give it my best shot. You turn your life and your family's life upside down to come here, and it creates a lot of expectation, so I'm relieved to get this assurance. Things can only go up."
Rawiller's careless-riding bans, which were received in three different countries, have halted his momentum this season and his current "suspendsion-free" stretch is the first time he has been able to ride at four consecutive meetings since starting in mid-October.
"Trying to build a connection with owners when you aren't riding all of the time is tricky," Rawiller said. "I feel like I have adjusted to the lifestyle, though. You live, eat and sleep racing here, and apart from the family, racing is your only focus. It's very different to home."
One horse Rawiller has been able to build a rapport with since his arrival is John Moore's Flagship Shine, who he rides for the fourth time this season in tomorrow's Chinese Club Challenge Cup at Sha Tin.
After finishing third in the Jockey Club Sprint, Flagship Shine was badly beaten on International Day. "He really left me scratching my head after that, he didn't seem on the job at all," Rawiller said. "This is a race more suitable for him class wise and the 1,400m is certainly good for him, too."
Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli's licence to ride will also be extended until March 1.