Jul 25, 2023

Grafton girl Leah Kilner almost lost her life a year ago at her home track but returned on Wednesday to be part of the one of the most emotional of Listed Ramornie Handicap (1200m) wins as The Big Goodbye snared the $200,000 feature.

Kilner had to be put in a coma following a horrific fall at Grafton in the first week of July last year, suffering severe brain and head injuries as well as several fractures around her body.

The determined jockey has since made a miracle recovery and has returned to the racing industry to work as an assistant racing manager for The Big Goodbye‘s trainer Rob Heathcote & ambassador for the QLD Rogues.

Kilner had rode The Big Goodbye to a Saturday win at Ipswich just 13 months ago but found herself in hospital fighting for her life just a fortnight later.

“I am a Grafton girl and always wanted to win a Ramornie Handicap,” Kilner said. “I thought I would be the one on this horse but that didn’t happen.  “But I am here with him now and that’s the main thing.”

The Big Goodbye had to burn some gas early but jockey Martin Harley found himself outside the leader, running alongside last year’s winner Ranges.

The leading duo settled down for the fight in the straight before The Big Goodbye ($15) shook off the Peter and Paul Snowden galloper and held off the late surging Far Too Easy ($5.50) to win.

“He is the bravest horse I’ve ever ridden. He’s just the best,” Kilner said.

“When he hit the front I thought geez they are going to have to be good to get past him because when they chase him, they just can’t get past him. “It has been a long prep but Rob is a fantastic trainer, he knows what he is doing.”

Harley himself completed his remarkable comeback from a career threatening neck break to win the feature. A scary fall at Doomben in January left Harley with fractures to his C0, C1 and C2 vertebrae and needing a halo to keep his head and neck stable. The Group 1-winning hoop was fortunate to avoid damage to his spinal cord but spent close to five months on the sidelines before returning to the saddle last month. He came to Grafton for one ride and made the most of it to chalk up his first feature winner since his comeback into the saddle.

What a day, magic memories that will last a lifetime!