: Local apprentice jockey Leah Kilner steers Swanston (red and white silks and blue cap), trained by her father Greg Kilner along the rails and on their way to victory in Race 6 at Grafton on Sunday. Image: Screenshot from Racing NSW website.

Racing off to a successful start

Emma Pritchard

Despite the enforcement of new Covid-19 restrictions that were introduced less than 24 hours before the start of the 2021 July Racing Carnival, Clarence River Jockey Club (CRJC) Executive Officer Michael Beattie declared the Westlawn Finance Black and Gold Race Day on June 27 was “a very successful day.”

While face masks became compulsory additions to their race day attire, close to 900 people headed trackside for the first day of the carnival after the gates opened at 10:30 am.

Mr. Beattie confirmed social distancing rules and QR code check-ins were adhered to, and he was more than satisfied with the beginning of the most popular country racing carnival in the state.

Punters had a mixed start to the 2021 July Racing Carnival with winners difficult to pick while several bookies left the track with significantly heavier pockets.

Former jockey Peter Graham, who rode Rednav to victory in the 2016 Grafton Cup, trained the first winner of the carnival when promising two-year-old gelding and race favorite Offyarocatwo improved following his debut on April 30 to score impressively at the odds of 3/1.

It was the bookies who cheered loudly in Race 2 when Far Too Easy, trained in Murwillumbah by David McColm, saluted at 25/1.

As punters searched the form guides for their next winner, entrants in the 2021 Westlawn Finance Black and Gold Fashions on the Field modeled their best outfits and headpieces on the course proper.

Sharon Edmonds from Adamstown was the overall winner of the ladies’ section.

After Ms. Edmonds received her sash, Grafton trainer Greg Kilner and his daughter, talented apprentice jockey Leah Kilner, formed a fashionable combination to claim a winning double with progressive gallopers Volfoni and Swanston.

Despite finishing in the money in four of his past five starts, progressive gelding Volfoni started at 14/1 before storming down the outside to take Race 4.

“He’s matured quite a bit,” his trainer said during the post-race interview before revealing he didn’t trial the gelding prior to starting him on Sunday.

“He’s pretty clean-winded.”

The Kilners were back in front of the microphones for their second post-race interviews after Swanston captured Race 6, the Westlawn Health Management Grafton Guineas Prelude 3YO benchmark 66 handicaps over 1420m.

“He saves his best racing for home,” Ms Kilner said happily after she dismounted.

“This horse, he’ll beat anything if he puts his best foot forward.”

Her father confirmed Swanston, who was a $5000 purchase from Aquis, will take his place in the Grafton Guineas on Ramornie Day next week.

“We may as well have a crack at it,” he said.

“If he draws a good gate in the Grafton Guineas, bring it on,” his daughter said.

Racing returns to Grafton on July 4 with the running of the South Grafton Quality Cup.

The CRJC will work with Racing NSW in the coming days to determine if further Covid-19 restrictions will be enforced for the remainder of the carnival.