MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win the A$6.2 million ($4.44 million) Melbourne Cup on Tuesday as she rode rank outsider Prince of Penzance to a famous victory in Australia’s richest and most prestigious race.
Jumping from barrier one, Payne bided her time until well into the final straight before pushing the 100-1 shot clear at the 200-metre mark and held off a charging Max Dynamite by three-quarters of a length.
Local stayer Criterion crossed the line third in the grueling 3,200 meter handicap at Flemington racecourse in front of a bumper crowd of 100,000 bathed in late spring sunshine.
Originally passed over at a yearling sale in New Zealand, Prince of Penzance was secured for $36,000 and brought to Australia to be prepared by local trainer Darren Weir.
The six-year-old gelding became only the fourth 100-1 chance to win the Melbourne Cup in its 155th running.
Thirty-year-old Payne felt the win was pre-ordained.
“I actually really had a strong feeling I was going to win but I thought ‘ah, don’t be stupid, it’s the Melbourne Cup,’” Payne, the youngest of 10 children raised on a farm in rural Victoria state, said in a trackside interview.
“It turned out exactly how I thought it would.
“Everything just fell into place.
“To think that Darren Weir’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 (but co-owner) John Richards and Darren were really solid with me.
“I can’t say how grateful I am to them and I just want to say that everyone else can get stuffed because they think women aren’t strong enough but we just beat the world.”
Celebrity Italian jockey Frankie Dettori, who rode Irish-trained Max Dynamite, was later charged with careless riding in the final straight and promptly suspended for a month with a fine of A$20,000.
It was a disappointing day for many of the foreign-trained horses, transported across the world at huge expense.
Japanese favorite Fame Game finished 13th, while Sky Hunter, prepared by the powerful Godolphin stable, was 22nd in the 24-entrant field.
Sentimental favorite Red Cadeaux, a three-times runner-up trained by Briton Ed Dunlop, failed to finish and was immediately transported from the track for emergency surgery on a fetlock injury.
Prince of Penzance’s win was a triumph for the Payne family, with Michelle’s brother Steven, who has Down Syndrome, the six-year-old gelding’s strapper.
Payne said her ride was straining at the reins coming into the final turn and took her chance when the Dunlop-trained Trip to Paris (fourth), opened a path through the front-runners.
“I thought ‘well, I’m going to take that one,’” said Payne.
“When he burst to the front, I thought ‘this is amazing’. I seriously can’t believe it just came true.”
Editing by John O'Brien/Patrick Johnston