Who is she?
Michelle Payne is the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. The youngest of 10 children, Michelle’s mother died when she was six months old. She was raised in a racing family – the Paynes are a legendary Ballarat racing dynasty, boasting eight jockeys among them.
In 2004, Michelle suffered a fractured skull in an horrific fall, but recovered and won her first Group 1 race in 2009. That same year, she rode for Bart Cummings in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. In 2010, she won the Thousand Guineas at Caulfield. She is only the fourth woman to ride in the Melbourne Cup.
Why should we thank her?
Female jockeys have been in racing for a long time, but Michelle’s win is a massive achievement and a huge barrier to break down for women in the sport. Women are often overlooked as jockeys, as men are considered to have greater physical strength. As Michelle said yesterday, some of Prince of Penzance’s owners wanted her off the horse for the Cup. But as she also said in her wonderful acceptance speech, it’s not all about strength.
Michelle has broken through the glass ceiling in a highly male-dominated sport – and millions of little girls will now dream of winning the Cup themselves.
“I put in all the effort I could. I galloped him every gallop he had … I can’t say how grateful I am to them and I just want to say … everyone else can get stuffed because they think women aren’t strong enough, but we just beat the world.”
Michelle rode to victory on Prince of Penzance wearing the colours of the suffragettes – purple, green and white.