Michelle Payne

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Michelle Payne
Michelle Payne on Yosei.jpg
Michelle Payne on Yosei, upon winning the 2010 Thousand Guineas at Caulfield
Born (1985-09-29) 29 September 1985 (age 36)
Weight50.5 kg (7.95 st; 111 lb)
Major racing wins
Racing awards

Michelle J. Payne OAM (born 29 September 1985)[3] is an Australian jockey. She won the 2015 Melbourne Cup, riding Prince of Penzance, and is the first and only female jockey to win the event.

Early life[edit]

The youngest child of ten of Paddy and Mary Payne, Payne grew up on a farm at Miners Rest, a locality near Ballarat in central Victoria, Australia.[4] Her mother Mary died in a motor vehicle crash when Payne was six months old, leaving her father Paddy to raise their ten children as a single father.[4] Payne dreamt of being a winning jockey as a child, and, aged seven, told friends she would one day win the Melbourne Cup.[5] She attended Our Lady Help of Christians primary school and Loreto College, Ballarat,[6] and entered racing aged 15, the eighth of the Payne children to do so.[4] She has Irish New Zealand heritage.


She won in her first race at Ballarat, aboard Reigning—a horse trained by her father.[7] In March 2004, Payne fell heavily at a race in Sandown Racecourse in Melbourne, fracturing her skull and bruising her brain. As a result of her prolonged recovery period—including a further fall where she fractured her wrist—Payne was granted a three-month extension to her apprenticeship to allow her time to ride out her claim.[8]

Payne won her first Group One race, the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield Racecourse aboard Allez Wonder on 10 October 2009, and trainer Bart Cummings offered her the ride at the Caulfield Cup the following week. Payne was the third female jockey to ride in the Caulfield Cup.[9] As a first-timer in the 2009 Melbourne Cup, she rode Cummings' Allez Wonder[10] with a riding weight of 50.5 kg. The horse was placed 16th in the field of 23. In 2010 Payne rode Yosei to victory in the Thousand Guineas at Caulfield.[11]

Melbourne Cup 2015[edit]

In 2015, she gained national attention when she rode the winning horse in two races at Melbourne Cup carnival at the Flemington Racecourse. One of them was the Hilton Hotels Stakes and the other was the Melbourne Cup itself.[12][13] Payne said she was "floating on the cloud and it's a nice feeling".[12]

Payne won the Melbourne Cup on 3 November 2015, riding Prince of Penzance, a six-year-old gelding with which she had a long-term association.[14][15]

The training strategy used in the lead-up to the race included a focus on galloping, and a consistent horse-jockey relationship.[14] "...'you know what?' Payne asked. "It's not all about strength, there is so much more involved, getting the horse to try for you, it's being patient."[16]

"Just want to say to everyone else, can get stuffed, because they think women aren’t strong enough but we just beat the world"

—Michelle Payne (after her win in the Melbourne Cup)[17]

Payne was the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup in its 155-year history. She was also the fourth woman to ride in the race and was coincidentally wearing the colours of the suffragette movement: purple, green and white.[18] In an interview shortly after her Melbourne Cup win, Payne said that horse racing is a "chauvinistic sport".[19] Her short speech about the capability of women in sport was described as "unambiguous and galvanising".[20] She later stated that she hopes her win "helps female jockeys".[14]

The victory was a surprise for bookmakers and speechmakers. The horse, bought for $50,000 (a figure described by sportswriters as "pocket change" for horseflesh) was a long odds chance at 100–1,[21][22] and afterwards Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and other speechmakers were criticised for failing to adapt their pre-prepared congratulations to acknowledge the historic nature of the win.[23][24]

2016-2017 seasons[edit]

In May 2016, Payne suffered severe abdominal injuries in a race fall at Mildura.[25] She underwent urgent surgery for a torn pancreas, with surgeons saving the organ, otherwise she would have become a diabetic.[26] She returned to racing in September 2016, though noted that her future goals included a move from being a jockey to becoming a trainer.[27]

In October 2016, she was awarded the Don Award at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame awards. The Don Award is "awarded to a sportsperson who, through their achievements and example over the last 12 months, is considered to have most inspired the nation".[28]

In May 2017, Payne received international recognition when awarded the Longines Ladies Award in Washington U.S. The award paid tribute to "distinguished women whose careers have shown a positive influence and exceptional commitment to the equine cause"[29]

On 23 June 2017, Payne was stood down from racing after she had tested positive for the drug phentermine, an appetite suppressant banned under Australian Rule of Racing 81B. The traces were found in Payne's urine from a test taken on 11 June 2017, at the Swan Hill Cup meeting. Payne faced an inquiry by Racing Victoria stewards on 29 June 2017.[30][31] Payne pleaded guilty to taking the appetite suppressant phentermine and was banned for four weeks until 21 July 2017. Payne said after the investigation "The onus is 100 per cent with me … I regret not seeking more guidance, I wasn’t thorough, and that is completely my fault. My sincere apologies to everyone."[32]

She also speaks at conferences around Australia and internationally sharing her inspiring story.[33]


Payne was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day Honours.[34]


In 2019, Michelle Payne's victory was made into a feature film, Ride Like a Girl, with Teresa Palmer in the role of Payne.


  1. ^ "Michelle Payne, The Don Award". Sport Australian Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  2. ^ "2017 Longines Ladies Awards". Longines website. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  3. ^ Eddy, Andrew (29 September 2009). "Payne gets El of a birthday surprise". The Age. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Hanlon, Peter (17 October 2009). "Passion & Payne". The Age. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  5. ^ "Michelle Payne: From nasty falls to Cup ecstasy". ABC News. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Local heroes home with Cup". Stuff. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  7. ^ Cormick, Brendan (17 October 2009). "Wonder woman Michelle Payne rides to forget pain of the past". The Australian. Retrieved 16 October 2009.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Eddy, Andrew (15 July 2005). "A life of pleasure and Payne". The Age. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  9. ^ Stewart, Matt (17 October 2009). "The wonder of Michelle Payne". Herald Sun. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  10. ^ Presnell, Max (3 November 2015). "Shocking truth is Flemington on a Tuesday's no place for learners". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Yosei wins Thousand Guineas at Caulfield". The Australian. 13 October 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  12. ^ a b Pengilley, Adam (7 November 2015). "Michelle Payne and Darren Weir team up again to win Springtime Stakes at Flemington". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  13. ^ Garvey, Andrew (7 November 2015). "Power Trip wins Maribyrnong Plate". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  14. ^ a b c "Melbourne Cup: Michelle Payne lauds 'incredible' Prince Of Penzance after historic win". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 November 2015.
  15. ^ Thomas, Ray (3 November 2015). "Melbourne Cup 2015: Michelle Payne scores historic win on $101 outsider Prince Of Penzance". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  16. ^ Editorial (6 November 2015). "Michelle Payne stands tall for women's sport". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  17. ^ Decent, Tom (3 November 2015). "Melbourne Cup 2015: Winning jockey Michelle Payne hits back at doubters after making history on Prince of Penzance". The Age.
  18. ^ Jabour, Bridie. "'Get stuffed': how Michelle Payne and family beat odds to win Melbourne Cup". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  19. ^ Radio New Zealand and agencies (3 November 2015). "Prince of Penzance wins Melbourne Cup". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  20. ^ Dumas, Daisy (7 November 2015). "Against the odds: women trailblazing in male-dominated sports". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  21. ^ Webster, Andrew (3 November 2015). "While Michelle Payne was winning the Melbourne Cup, the male jockeys were mauling". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  22. ^ "Melbourne Cup 2015: Michelle Payne first woman to ride winner as long shot Prince of Penzance wins". Guardian Australia.
  23. ^ Hull, Crispin (3 November 2015). "History made but speeches missed it". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  24. ^ Armitage, Catherine (4 November 2015). "What Peter Cosgrove should have said about Michelle Payne". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  25. ^ "Michelle Payne in hospital after fall". smh.com.au.
  26. ^ "Michelle Payne unveils scar from career-threatening fall". smh.com.au.
  27. ^ sport, Guardian (11 September 2016). "Michelle Payne back in saddle after lengthy injury layoff from racing". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  28. ^ "King Wally becomes a Legend as Michelle Payne rides off with the 'The Don'". Sport Australia Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  29. ^ "2017 Longines Ladies Awards". Longines website. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  30. ^ "Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne stood down after testing positive to 'banned substance'". Yahoo7. 28 June 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  31. ^ "Michelle Payne to face inquiry after positive test for banned substance". ABC News. 28 June 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  32. ^ Willoughby, James (29 June 2017). "'I'm embarrassed': Michelle Payne suspended for positive drug test". The New Daily. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  33. ^ "Michelle Payne Speaker Profile". Saxton Speakers.
  34. ^ Hurley, David (26 January 2021). "Australia Day 2021 Honours List" (PDF). Governor-General of Australia. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 25 January 2021.

Further reading[edit]

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