Even if you're conflicted about horse racing, you can't help but celebrate Michelle Payne's incredible achievements — and here are five reasons we love her.
Horse racing is undeniably male dominated; statistics show that around 3 out of 4 jockeys are male. But that didn't stop Payne from trying (and succeeding!) to build a career in the industry, despite the challenges.
Payne once told a school friend that she would one day ride the winner over the line at the Cup. "There's an interview from my school friends they were teasing me about, [from] when I was about seven and I said, 'I'm going to win the Melbourne Cup,' and they always give me a bit of grief about it," she told Channel 7 after winning the race. "I can't believe we've done it!"
Payne says she wasn't prepared to bow to the pressure from some of the owners of Prince of Penzance, who wanted her replaced with a male jockey. Instead, she fought for her right to ride and put in the hard yards to ensure she was ready to run the race of her lifetime.
Far from using her win as an opportunity to scream "I told you so" at all the naysayers, Payne was gracious in her success. One of the first things she did was thank her trainer for giving her a go: "To think that [trainer] Darren Weir has given me a go and it's such a chauvinistic sport... I just can't say how grateful I am," she said.
The way Payne responded to her horse after her Melbourne Cup win was nothing short of heart-warming. She showered him with affection, patting and rubbing his neck, and commented after the race that she felt bad riding him so hard in the home stretch but had to put the pressure on to secure the win. It shows how much she truly cares about the horses she works with every day.
Before the Melbourne Cup, Payne had already amassed prize money of more than $20 million on the horses she had ridden! She's an incredible woman who has worked her way up in a male-dominated industry, fought for an opportunity to ride in the most prestigious race in Australia — and won. If that isn't a strong role model to show young women that anything is possible if you have passion and tenacity, we don't know what is!
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