The youngest of 10 children, Payne always wanted to be a jockey, though never in her wildest dreams did she think she would be the one among her seven jockey siblings to win the Melbourne Cup.
The 30-year-old has become an overnight inspiration as the first female jockey to win the prestigious race on Prince Of Penzance.
“No, I thought I’d be better than my sisters; that was my main aim,” Payne said.
Payne has battled to get to the top in the male-dominated jockey business.
“I can’t say how grateful I am (to the people who helped me), and I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world,” she said on winning the $6 million race.
Payne shared the win with her whole family, including her brother Stevie, who works at trainer Darren Weir’s Ballarat stable and was centre stage as one of two handlers for Prince Of Penzance at Flemington.
Reflecting on the effort today, she said she hoped her win in the nation’s biggest horse race helps kids realise that dreams do come true.
“That’s what I would like to say to everybody, that every young kid growing up, female or male, you have to follow your dreams because dreams do come true and it’s a fairytale really how it all worked out with my brother, Stevie,” said the fresh-faced jockey, the morning after winning the race that stops the nation.
“Last night, I laid in bed, I can’t believe that it has actually happened.
“I am just excited about it,” she told Channel Seven, her achievement still sinking in.
“I just hope that it’s a good message for everybody out there, that you have to have faith in yourself. It doesn’t matter where you come from. Obviously we grew up in the country…we had not a lot of money growing up and it doesn’t matter.
“If you’ve got a dream and you believe in it, it can happen. I just really hope that that message goes out to everybody, male, female, young or old,” said Payne.
“My whole life I have just been so lucky to be surrounded by such a great family.”
The Payne family lost their mother in an accident when Michelle was six and her father Paddy Payne, a man of few words is pretty chuffed with his daughter’s achievement.
“Well, it’s something you are not expecting and very good,” he told Seven.
She also credits her brother Stevie, who has Down syndrome, with helping her dream come true to cross the line first, especially by picking barrier one in the race.
She hopes that Stevie shows that people with Down syndrome should be treated normally.
“Not just for Stevie but I think for Down syndromes and for families with Down syndromes, I think it’s a big message out there to everybody, they are – they can be treated as normal and have such a great life if you allow them to have responsibility and allow them to grow.
“Stevie is incredible. He can look after himself.”
Payne always thought she would retire if she won a Melbourne Cup, but that plan has been well and truly shelved.
“It would be a good way to go out but I feel it would be a bit of a shame too because I feel like I’m just starting to get going now, I may as well carry on and enjoy it,” she said.
“I’m going to be in the game forever. It’s what I love. It’s my passion. It’s an amazing industry.”
Weir, Payne and 100-1 chance Prince Of Penzance were up against sheiks and European racing royalty.
“You don’t need to have all the money in the world to win the greatest race in Australia and nearly the world,” Payne said.
“This horse is $50,000 and he won a $6 million race.”
Weir said six-year-old Prince Of Penzance could happily retire.
“I don’t care what he does,” the trainer said.
“He can retire now, he’s done his job.
“He’s got a place in a paddock at my place forever.”
It was a dream come true for Prince Of Penzance’s owners, led by Sandy McGregor and John Richards, and a 50- or 60-strong syndicate.
Richards also took out the final race at Flemington with Scarlet Billows.
“You couldn’t believe it could happen, could you, in one day?” the long-time racehorse owner said.
“A lot of my life is spent with racehorses and I’ve been having a pretty ordinary run lately, and all of a sudden it turns around to this degree. It’s just fantastic.”
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