“I’m still a country girl at heart”

It’s a common misconception that Michelle Payne first won the Melbourne Cup in 2015. In fact she had actually won it many times before – but on those occasions, she was the horse. As children, her older brothers used to ride Payne and her closest sibling, Stevie, in mock horse races. Payne was Let’s Elope, and with Shane Dye – aka her brother Andrew – perched on her back, she would do laps of the lounge room on all fours. Stevie would go hard and win the shorter-course events, but Payne was a stayer and regularly took out the Cup.

As the youngest of 10, she was brought up by her trainer dad, Paddy, to look after horses and ride. It was a world of frosty mornings, smelly stables and muddy floors. The family was part protective tribe, part Lord Of The Flies. “A journalist once said our house was like a scene from Beirut,” Bernadette, one of Payne’s six older sisters, says. “It was fun – we would fight, and within five minutes we’d be back playing games.”

“The way I like to look at it is we won the Melbourne Cup. Take away the negativity – it’s done now, that’s life”

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