Michelle Payne (OAM)
Michelle Payne is one of Australia’s most sought-after media and racing personalities who captured the hearts of a nation when she won the 2015 Lexus Melbourne Cup on the 100 to 1 priced Prince of Penzance.
The first and only female to win the event, Michelle’s triumph catapulted her into stardom where she is now a highly successful trainer, jockey and author.
Growing up on a farm at Miners Rest, near Ballarat in Central Victoria, Michelle is the youngest daughter of the ten children of Paddy and Mary Payne. Tragically, Michelle’s mother Mary died in a motor vehicle accident when Michelle was only six months old.
A racing family, a career in the saddle always beckoned for Michelle and she followed seven of her brothers and sisters when she rode in her first competitive race at the age of just 15.
Michelle’s career hasn’t been without challenges. In March 2004 at the age of 18, Michelle was pulling up her mount Vladivostok, having just finished 11th in the Torbek Handicap at Sandown. 100 metres past the winning post the horse fell suddenly, sending Michelle headfirst into the turf. The incident left Michelle with a fractured skull and bruising to her brain.
Michelle suffered two further serious falls in 2012 and in May 2016, just months after winning the 2015 Melbourne Cup, Michelle suffered yet another life-threatening fall at Mildura. This time Michelle required pancreatic surgery and a long recovery, before yet another inspiring comeback to racing.
In 2016, Michelle was awarded the highly coveted Don Prize for Most Inspirational Australian Athlete at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Awards. That same year she also won Sportswoman of the Year for the Cosmopolitan Magazine Awards and Women of Style: Sport Award for InStyle Magazine. Michelle and her brother Stephen were also given the honour of being named Queen and King of Moomba.
In 2017, Michelle received The International Longines Ladies Awards in Washington celebrating women who have consistently achieved at the highest level within the equestrian world, and in 2021 was awarded the Order of Australia medal (OAM) for services to horse racing. Her 2015 Melbourne Cup win was voted by the public as the most significant Sport Australia Hall of Fame moment from the past 60 years, from a shortlist of 20 outstanding sporting moments.
Michelle released her first book, Life As I Know It in 2016 and was in the top 10 best sellers for the first six months.
In 2019, Michelle’s inspiring story was translated for the big screen with the major motion picture Ride Like A Girl. It was the highest grossing Australian film that year.
Michelle now runs a very successful training facility, Nottingham Farm, Ballarat and has recently expanded to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
Follow her on Instagram @michellepayne_ and Twitter @mj_payne