Sport Racing Michelle Payne caps stellar year by winning ‘The Don’

Michelle Payne caps stellar year by winning ‘The Don’

michelle payne the don
Michelle Payne has enjoyed an excellent 12 months. Photo: Getty
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Michelle Payne’s celebrations for her historic ‘The Don’ award will wait as the Melbourne Cup winning jockey aims for more Spring Carnival success.

The 30-year-old remains without a ride for next month’s Melbourne Cup and she has also become a trainer-rider, preparing Queen of Zealand for a potential start in the VRC Oaks.

Payne was stunned last night when she won The Don – awarded to the athlete who has most inspired the nation over the past year – at the annual Sport Australia Hall Of Fame dinner in Melbourne.

She is the first jockey to win The Don.

But there was little time to let the occasion sink in, with Payne riding on Friday night at a race meeting in Cranbourne.

While Payne’s Cup-winning ride Prince of Penzance is injured and potentially retired, she is still trying to secure a Melbourne Cup start.

“Obviously you never lose hope,” she said.

“I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed the [hall of fame] night as it has been and I will go home, have a good sleep and prepare for [Friday] night.

“Hopefully I will gain some more rides over the Spring Carnival — that’s what it’s all about, is getting the opportunities and making the most of it.

“So I don’t want to let anyone down if I do.”

Win unexpected for Payne

The award is given to the athlete or team judged to have most inspired Australians in the previous 12 months.

Most of the other nominees were medal-winning Rio Olympians and Paralympians.

Payne was so sure someone else would win, she said she did not prepare a speech.

“It was so overwhelming — I couldn’t imagine my name being read out,” she said.

One of the best parts of Payne’s Cup win was her post-race media interviews, when she told doubters in the notoriously-chauvinistic racing industry to “get stuffed”.

“Funnily enough, one of the main doubters I had leading up to the Melbourne Cup, he came up and shook my hand a couple of weeks after,” Payne said.

“We took a step back and had a laugh about it.

“It’s all about getting the opportunities and that’s basically where the comment came from.

“You can’t prove yourself if you’re not given the chance to prove it.”

Payne said winning the Melbourne Cup had been life-changing and she wants to inspire other people.

“It’s a dream come true, basically,” she said.

Also on Thursday night, rugby league great Wally Lewis became the 38th hall of fame member to be elevated to legend status.

The hall of fame has eight new members, with Jack Newton, Libby Trickett, Sharelle McMahon, Emma Carney, Kristy Ellis, Malcolm Page, Harry Wells and Bob Ellicott all inducted.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge won the spirit of sport award for handing his premiership medal to injured captain Bob Murphy after the club’s AFL grand final win over Sydney.

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