Horse Racing
Rawiller seeks to add Korean success aboard Circuit Land, Lucky Year

By Andrew Hawkins in Seoul
09/09/2017 12:59

The renaissance of jockey Nash Rawiller can take another step on Sunday (10 September) when he aims to add Korean Group 1 success to his illustrious resume aboard Circuit Land in the Keeneland Korea Cup (1800m, sand) and Lucky Year in the Keeneland Korea Sprint (1200m, sand).

Lucky Year (inside) exercises with Circuit Land (outside) at Seoul racecourse this morning.
Lucky Year (inside) exercises with Circuit Land (outside) at Seoul racecourse this morning.

When three-time Sydney champion rider Rawiller made the transition to Sha Tin three years ago, he was coming off a season in which he had won five Group 1 races at home and had just been caught in his quest to add a fourth Sydney title. However, he has not tasted success at the highest level since his arrival in September 2014 and, at times, he says he has struggled to gain a foothold among Hong Kong’s group of elite riders.

“I’ve gone through stages in Hong Kong where I’ve found it hard to get rides and get support,” Rawiller said. “Danny has always stuck solid and given me that bit better class of horse to ride. It started off with just a few pick-up rides but he gained confidence in me and I’ve tried to put in more work with the stable.”

‘Danny’ is trainer Danny Shum, who prepares both Circuit Land and Lucky Year. Shum and Rawiller’s burgeoning partnership is a microcosm of the Australian rider’s Hong Kong career.

In his first season in Hong Kong in 2014/15, Rawiller had just six rides for Shum, his best placing a fourth. Just a week into the 2017/18 term, that figure will already be surpassed after Sunday’s two mounts.

Last season, Shum was one of Rawiller’s key supporters in what was a breakout term for the rider, at least in Hong Kong. The 42-year-old rode 35 winners and was sitting a clear third in the jockeys’ premiership, behind Joao Moreira and Zac Purton, before a fall in mid-April ruled him out for the remainder of the season.

“There are only so many trainers, 23 at the moment, so you try to spread yourself out as much as you can and keep everybody happy,” Rawiller said. “Obviously, it’s my first priority to do that, but it’s great if you have that backbone behind you, that support to give you an opportunity – especially when you go through stages when you are struggling for form.”

While the two Korean races are local Group 1s, they do not carry international Group 1 status. However, for the jockey, it would still be a significant win.

“To ride a big race winner for Danny, who has been such a terrific backer of mine, it would be something special.”

For now, though, the focus is on Sunday’s Korean races. Rawiller was on hand to canter Lucky Year at Seoul Racecourse on Saturday morning (9 September), with Shum’s assistant Jimmy Ting aboard Circuit Land. The pair were flanked on the sand track by American runners Papa Shot (Cup) and The Truth Or Else (Sprint), the first United States-trained runners to step out in South Korea.

“Both horses are well, I was on Lucky Year this morning,” the jockey said. “I had ridden Circuit Land in the gallop yesterday so I got a feel for the other one today. I’m not sure how we ended up between the American horses but it worked out. Jimmy has said that Lucky Year wasn’t so comfortable going the other way and I could sense that but I think he’s getting used to it more now.

The 15-horse Keeneland Korea Sprint will be run at 2.30pm, between Sha Tin races four and five, while the 11-strong Keeneland Korea Cup comes up at 3.35pm, between Sha Tin races six and seven.