Kilner double kicks off Grafton carnival

Leah Kilner returns to the saddling enclosure on Swanston after winning the Grafton Guineas Prelude and riding a double at Clarence River Jockey Club on Sunday. Photo: Trackside Photography.

It wouldn’t be a Grafton carnival if there wasn’t the Kilner family name popping up for a winner or two and that was certainly the case when the XXXX Gold July carnival kicked off at the Clarence River Jockey Club on Sunday.

Popular trainer Greg Kilner combined with his daughter and apprentice hoop Leah Kilner, with the pair finishing with a winning double on their home track.

In what would have been the stable’s highlight of the day, Swanston made it career win number four from start 14 when winning well in the Grafton Guineas Prelude as a 20/1 outsider.

Leah Kilner rode the three-year-old a treat from gate two, with the pair jumping well and sitting just behind the early leaders.

Kilner then took the short cut on the home turn and Swanston proved too strong at the finish, holding off race favourite Oakfield Arrow to win by 1.29 lengths in the 1420m Benchmark 66 Handicap. 

Prior to that, the Kilners combined to win the 1215m Class One Handicap with Volfoni, who also popped up at good odds, paying around 14/1 on the tote. 

The four-year-old started slowly from gate 10 and was a clear last approaching the home turn. 

Kilner then switched to the outside and the Smart Missile gelding hit the line strongly, winning by 0.55 of a length over the Stephen Lee trained race favourite, Lasting Kiss. 

“She rode them both well,” Greg Kilner said 

“Leah rode him (Swanston) up front, and she gave the other bloke (Volfoni) plenty of time to settle and went wide to get the win.” 

Leah Kilner rides both gallopers every morning and her father believed it helped when it came to race day. 

Leah Kilner guides Volfoni to victory in the 1215m Class One Handicap at Grafton on Sunday. Photo: Trackside Photography.

“I think it gives anyone an advantage to ride them every day at track work and we saw that at Grafton,” Greg Kilner said. 

The Grafton duo will be in action again next Wednesday, with Swanston set to contest the $80,000 Grafton Guineas, while Volfoni is set to go around again for connections.

“It’s pretty good to get a couple winners. They will both go around on Wednesday on Ramornie (Handicap) Day, but we will see what happens, it might be a bit stronger, but we’ll give it a good go.”

In what turned out to be a big first day of the Grafton carnival, the Brett Bellamy trained, and Ray Spokes ridden Northern Knight won the John Carlton Cup over the 1190m, beating race favourite Exclusive and Bugalugs ran third.

In the 2230m Grafton Cup Prelude the Michael Costa trained and Andrew Mallyon ridden Purrfect Deal was a terrific win, belting Scilago and Oakfield Cherokee. 

This coming Sunday the 1600m South Grafton Quality Cup meeting takes centre stage.