Nash Rawiller suffers heart attack
Nash Rawiller sensed something was wrong. His breathing was laboured. He felt tightness in his chest. The pain was intense.
The champion jockey, who was riding at a barrier trials session, asked to see the on-duty ambulance officers.
After being treated on track, Rawiller was transported to nearby Liverpool Hospital for further checks.
Rawiller ended up staying in hospital for three days. He had suffered a mild heart attack.
“I was feeling pain in my chest which I had never come across before,” Rawiller said.
“Normally, I push through pain pretty well but I hadn’t experienced anything like this. It was like someone grabbing your heart.”
Understandably, Rawiller finds it hard to talk about what happened that morning about three weeks ago.
But he also realises this episode is a wake-up call for himself and others. By speaking about his ordeal, he could save someone’s life.
Rawiller, 48, has been one of the nation’s elite jockeys for three decades. He is a heavyweight rider and needs to endure a brutal fitness regimen to stay in the saddle.
He doesn’t seem a likely candidate for a heart attack although the jockey revealed he has been a smoker most of his life.
But since suffering his heart episode three weeks ago, Rawiller hasn’t had another cigarette. He’s gone “cold turkey”.
“I think for me it has been a real wake-up call,” Rawiller said.
“I’ve smoked for probably 30 years and, to be honest, because I exercise so much I have never really had any trouble with my lungs.
“So, until now I’ve never really felt the need to quit, which is probably silly.
“When I was 40 I was going to give them up. When I was 30 I was going to give them up.
“Gai (Waterhouse) had me off them for six months there at one stage but gradually I started smoking again.
“I think, really, for me I’m very lucky. I got a warning where I didn’t do any real damage.
“If I had gone another three or four years who knows what might have happened.
“But I haven’t had a cigarette since that morning. Once you get that nicotine out of your system it does get easier.”
Rawiller spent a week convalescing after the barrier trial incident but has eased himself back into training and trackwork, rode at the Rosehill barrier trials last Monday and returned to race riding at Canterbury on Wednesday.
“I’ve actually been training more than I normally would,” he revealed.
“I’m starting to feel really good but I think this is the kick up the a— I needed.
“If you keep neglecting your body it will catch up with you eventually. I think it is something other people should think about.
“I’m a pretty fit bloke and it just shows it can happen to anyone.”
Rawiller is going straight back to “work” this weekend with his racing manager, Liam Prior, keeping the jockey busy starting with four rides at the Kensington meeting on Friday including promising filly Call Di, the $2.40 TAB fixed odds favourite for the TAB Handicap (1400m).
Call Di is beautifully-bred by English super horse Frankel out of former champion filly Samantha Miss.
The three-year-old is bred and raced by John Singleton, a long-time admirer of Rawiller’s nerves of steel, forceful riding and renowned strength in the saddle.
Trainer by Gerald Ryan and Sterling Alexiou, Call Di is resuming after a winless two-start debut preparation but the filly indicated she has her share of ability when a fast finishing third to A Lot More Love in the Listed Reginald Allen Quality last spring.
Rawiller’s other Kensington rides are for the Chris Waller stable on Wangaehu, the $2.25 favourite for the Furphy Handicap (2400m), Noble Conqueror ($7.50) in the Precise Air Handicap (1400m) and Latenighttoughguy ($6) in the Blue Point First Yearlings Handicap (1000m).
At Royal Randwick on Saturday, Rawiller has five rides including Waller’s talented Caulfield Guineas minor placegetter Osipenko ($8) who is first-up in the Group 3 $200,000 Fujitsu General Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m).
Sydney’s premier trainer has also booked Rawiller for Fearnought ($13) in the Congratulations Sam and David Handicap (1300m) and Lindermann ($8) in the Petaluma Handicap (1200m).
Rawiller’s Randwick rides also include the consistent King Ratel ($7.50) in the TAB Handicap (1800m) and Amulet Street ($7) in the TAB Highway (1200m).
During his outstanding riding career, Rawiller has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to overcome the odds so it should come as no surprise he has already put behind him his recent health scare.
“As a kid starting off I didn’t ride a Group 1 winner until I was 23,” Rawiller said.
“I had weight problems and it almost felt like I was getting towards a position where I was going to have to find another job.
“But through sheer determination and guts I hung in there. The vests came in, the weights went up gradually and by the time I was 30 I was making a name for myself.
“Then I got that opportunity with Gai and it took me to another level but it didn’t happen overnight.”
Rawiller continues to struggle with his weight but has found a way over the last three decades to stay in the saddle and stay successful.
“When you are in your late teens to early 20s, you are battling that seesaw effect with your weight,” Rawiller said.
“You get down to a certain weight then next morning you are back up to where you were the day before.
“I guess you are fighting your own body at times but as you get older it does get a little easier and you do get smarter.”
Rawiller has already achieved so much during his celebrated riding career.
This writer ran the numbers by the jockey including more than 2500 career winners, three Sydney jockey premierships and 63 Group 1 wins.
“I’ve ridden 68 Group 1 winners,” he said, correcting the record immediately.
Of course, Rawiller has ridden successfully on racing’s international stage with major race wins in Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Macau and New Zealand to complement his 63 Australian Group 1 wins.
Rawiller’s riding record is comparable to some of the all-time greats and despite his recent health scare and a few untimely suspensions, Rawiller has ridden 21 Sydney winners so far this season to be equal 10th on the premiership rankings.
The champion jockey remains as enthusiastic as a teenage apprentice as he readies himself for another Sydney autumn carnival.
“There are so many things I’d like to achieve,” Rawiller said.
“It’s pretty good (Racing NSW chief executive) Peter V’landys keeps putting on these new races and until you win them you don’t want to give it up too quick.
“These new races are catching everyone’s attention now, they will be coming from overseas to try and win them. It is putting Sydney racing on the map, it’s as big as anywhere in the world now.
“I’m looking forward to the next few months. I’m feeling really good now and I’m back in time to make something of the autumn carnival.”