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Congrats are in order for Michelle J. Payne, who won this year’s Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. The 30-year-old Australian, who rode on the New Zealand-bred Prince of Penzance, becomes the first female jockey to win the event in its 155-year history. Talk about a total badass. Here, a few things to know about the newly crowned champ.
1. Payne comes from a horse-racing family.
Payne, who grew up at Miners Rest in Victoria, Australia, was raised by her dad, Paddy Payne, a horse trainer. (Her mother, Mary, was sadly killed in a car accident when Payne was only six months old.) In addition to her dad’s background, two of her nine siblings and brothers-in-law, Brett Prebble and Kerrin McEvoy, are also part of the horse-racing world.
2. Payne understands horse-racing is a man’s world, but she’s ready to change that.
After her win on Tuesday, she thanked Prince of Penzance’s trainer, Darren Weir, and said he’s “given me a go and it’s such a chauvinistic sport. I know some of the owners were keen to kick me off Prince, and [co-owner] John Richards and Darren stuck really solid with me. […] I just can’t say how grateful I am to them. I just want to say to everyone else, [they can] get stuffed, because they think women aren’t strong enough and we just beat the world.” She also wore the colors of the women’s suffragette movement of the 19th century: white, green and purple.
SIBLINGS SWAG: Michelle Payne, left, with brother Stephen Payne (strapper) and her trophy at the 2015 Melbourne Cup. (Photo: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)
3. Payne started riding at age 15.
For the first race she entered at Ballarat, she won — on Reigning, a horse trained by her dad.
4. Payne has experienced several injuries during her time as a jockey.
In March 2004, the then 18-year-old fell headfirst during a race at the Sandown Racecourse in Melbourne and fractured her skull and bruised her brain. Despite being told by the doctor that if she has another fall, her brain wouldn’t be as strong, she told her father otherwise. “Dad asked me what he said, and I told him the doctor said my brain was strong again and it was OK for me to ride,” she recalled. Not long after that, she fell again and broke her wrist.
5. The Melbourne Cup isn’t the first time she’s taken home the grand prize.
Among the major races she’s won include the Toorak Handicap, where she won her first Group One race (which is a term used to describe the highest level of Thoroughbred stakes races) in 2009, and then the Thousand Guineas at Caulfield Racecourse in 2010.
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