Michelle Payne made history Tuesday as the first female jockey to win Australia’s 154-year-old Melbourne Cup when she rode 100-1 outsider Prince of Penzance to a shock win.
In a tight finish, Prince of Penzance powered home to hold off Ireland’s Max Dynamite (12-1) by half-a-length with Criterion (18-1) close behind at the head of a strong international field.
The well-supported Japanese race favourite Fame Game (4-1) was always well back and finished 13th as Payne and her brother and strapper Stevie, who has Down’s Syndrome, started their celebrations.
“Unbelievable, it’s like a dream come true. This horse is awesome,” Payne said moments after winning the world’s richest two-mile (3,200m) handicap race, which has a Aus$6.2 million ($4.4 million) purse.
Payne and the locally-trained Prince of Penzance upstaged an 11-strong international contingent prepared by some of the greatest trainers in world racing.
Prince of Penzance became only the fourth 100-1 shot to win the Melbourne Cup, dubbed “the race that stops a nation”, and the first in 75 years.
It was a fairytale victory for Payne, 30, who has fought back from life-threatening race injuries and also battled prejudice in what she called “such a chauvinistic sport”.
“It’s a very male-dominated sport and people think we (women) are not strong enough and all of the rest of it, but you know what, it’s not all about strength,” she said at the winner’s presentation.
“There is so much more involved, getting the horse into a rhythm, getting the horse to try for you, it’s being patient. And I’m so glad to win the Melbourne Cup and hopefully, it will help female jockeys from now on to get more of a go.
“I believe that we don’t get enough of a go and hopefully this will help.”
– ‘Get stuffed’ –
Talking to Australia’s Channel Seven, she praised trainer Darren Weir and owner John Richards for their support and added: “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world.”
Prince of Penzance, a six-year-old gelding, came into Australia’s biggest race with little fanfare despite winning one of the lead-up races, the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, over a week ago.
But Payne said she knew her unheralded mount was going to challenge as they headed towards the home turn.
“From the 1,000 (metres) everything just opened up,” she said. “I got on to the back of Trip To Paris, he took me into the race.
“I was actually clipping his heels, I was going that good, but I didn’t want to check him and then he just got into the straight and burst clear and it was unreal.”
Payne, the youngest of 10 children, was just six months old when her mother Mary was killed in a car crash. She comes from a family steeped in racing pedigree, with only two other siblings not becoming jockeys.
At 18 Payne fractured her skull and suffered bruising on the brain when she fell head-first in a Melbourne race. She suffered further injuries, breaking a wrist and smashing an ankle in other race falls.
Trip To Paris came in fourth but Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop’s other runner, three-time race runner-up and 10-year-old gelding Red Cadeaux, failed to finish.
“Diagnostics undertaken on Red Cadeaux this afternoon show the horse has sustained a fracture to his medial sesamoid in his left fore fetlock,” a Racing Victoria statement read.
“The horse is comfortable with his leg in a splint and the fracture is stable.
“Dr Chris Whitton from the University of Melbourne advised that the injury is not currently life-threatening, however the horse will not race again.”
There was more heartbreak for Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin stable, which again missed out at the 18th attempt at winning the race when Sky Hunter (30-1) beat only two other runners home.
Michael Stoute, who has been a champion trainer 10 times in England and has won races all over the globe, fared no better, with his runner Snow Sky coming last