Tuesday 22 August 2017

Payne creates Cup history at expense of Mullins

Michelle Payne drives Prince Of Penzance (right) to victory in the Melbourne Cup from Max Dynamite (Frankie Dettori)
Michelle Payne drives Prince Of Penzance (right) to victory in the Melbourne Cup from Max Dynamite (Frankie Dettori)

Tom Peacock

Michelle Payne will have to get used to life as an instant Australian icon after becoming the first woman to ride the winner of the Melbourne Cup - much to the chagrin of Willie Mullins, who had settle for the runner-up berth with Max Dynamite.

For racing, one of the very few sports where the sexes compete on equal terms, Payne's success on the 100/1 outsider Prince Of Penzance must count as the most significant ever for a female jockey given the race's status around the world.

If Frankie Dettori had got a clearer run earlier in the straight, Max Dynamite could have denied Payne's place in the history books; as it was, his late charge failed by half a length. The Italian was given a one-month ban and fined Aus$20,000 for causing interference when starting his run.

Jamie Spencer, rider of the fifth horse home, Big Orange, got a 14-meeting suspension for "careless riding".

Despite missing out, Mullins wasn't too downbeat - the small matter of a runner-up prize of £471,204 will have eased the pain for owner Rich Ricci - and the Closutton supremo indicated that they would be back for another tilt next year.

"He probably wasn't the luckiest, but it's a horse race and we're very happy. This lad can come back," said Mullins. "He just didn't get a run at the top of the straight."

The Aidan O'Brien-trained pair of Bondi Beach and Kingfisher failed to figure, finishing 16th and 19th.

Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris was an excellent fourth, but his trainer Ed Dunlop had a more pressing concern as Red Cadeaux - a local hero after being second in the race on three occasions - was eased right down and whisked to a veterinary clinic.

He was found to have fractured a medial sesamoid, a small bone in his lower-left front leg. The injury was not reported to be life-threatening.

"He's alive and well and the guys are doing a good job," said Dunlop.

Payne (30) is from a large racing dynasty in Ballarat, Victoria. Her father was a trainer and eight of her nine siblings have been jockeys. She is similar to Hayley Turner, the first woman to win a British Group One outright, in that she has suffered several serious injuries and has a smiley personality that clearly masks an inner steel.

She is the regular jockey of Prince Of Penzance - trained by Darren Weir and owned by a syndicate of about 60 - and that understanding was evident as she brought her mount with a decisive move in the home straight.

Choosing her moment well, she said: "Racing's such a chauvinistic sport, I know some of the owners wanted to kick me off. I want to say to everyone else, 'Get stuffed', because they think women aren't strong enough and we can beat the world.

"It's about so much more than strength, you've got to get a horse in a rhythm, be patient. I'm so pleased to win and hopefully it will mean people give more female jockeys a go."

Of even more personal significance for Payne was that her brother Stevie, who has Down's syndrome, is Prince Of Penzance's groom.

"Stevie is a massive part of it, he's as capable as anyone at the stable of doing the job," Payne said. "Growing up, we were so close, the two youngest of 10, so we got left to play on our own. It's amazing we can share it with him."

Turner, meanwhile, secured a fairytale success in a thrilling finish on her final ride before retirement at Southwell yesterday, driving Yul Finegold to a short-head victory in the claimer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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