Trailblazing jockey Michelle Payne is backing an initiative to boost the role of women in horse racing by launching an all-female assault on the Melbourne Cup.
Payne – who became the first female jockey to win the Cup in 2015 riding rank outsider Prince of Penzance – announced ambitions to both ride and train an all-female-owned winner in the famous race.
She has teamed up with Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock (ATB) to set up Women in Racing, a syndication program that allows only female investors and owners.
“We think this association can deliver on some themes about women and racing that are very close to my heart and open the door for many, many more women to experience the thrill of part-ownership of a racehorse,” Payne told media in Ballarat on Wednesday.
“There are a whole range of reasons why women, on the whole, don’t get involved in syndicates. We want to bust some of the myths that discourage women from participating, spell out exactly what the costs and potential gains are, and hopefully support the broader idea of women in racing, at all levels of the sport.”
Women in Racing will buy horses to be trained and ridden by Payne.
Payne has been a figurehead for women in horse racing and sport since she sensationally won the Melbourne Cup in 2015.
In her post-Melbourne Cup victory interview, she branded the sport “chauvinistic”.
“It’s such a chauvinistic sport, a lot of the owners wanted to kick me off,” Payne said. “Everyone else can get stuffed [if they] think women aren’t good enough.
“I would like to say that, you know, it’s a very male-dominated sport and people think we are not strong enough and all of the rest of it.
“It’s not all about strength, 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 Melbourne Cup and hopefully, it will help female jockeys from now on to get more of a go.
“Because, I believe that we sort of don’t get enough of a go and hopefully this will help.”
Only four women have ever ridden in the Melbourne Cup.
Life after the saddle
Payne earned her Victorian trainer’s license in August and then went on to win a race on a horse she trained under the dual accreditation scheme.
Payne said she had been approached by numerous racing identities to consider buying a horse to train and ride in the Melbourne Cup.
She said she preferred German and English horses because of their recent success in the Melbourne Cup and their superior breeding.
She also hinted that there may not be long left in her career as a jockey after her devastating race fall in Mildura in May.
“It’s not too far away. It’s a very dangerous sport and I’ve had my fair share of falls,” she said. “I don’t want to push my luck. Having said that you’ve got to live your life doing what you love.”