- Michelle Payne announces her retirement
- Jockey says this will be her last season
- Is the only woman to win the Melbourne Cup
Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne has confirmed she will retire from racing after this season to focus primarily on training horses.
The 38-year-old stunned the nation when she won the 2015 Melbourne Cup with Prince of Penzance, becoming the first female jockey in the race’s history to lift the trophy.
Payne never imagined the path that breakthrough victory would take her, but she ultimately decided she needed a change.
Payne told News Corp that she almost didn’t qualify for a racing license this year because she didn’t race enough – and that was the sign she had to withdraw.
“I was looking for a sign when it felt right. And that was it,” Payne said.
Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne has announced she is retiring from racing
Payne says this season will be her last as a jockey before she focuses on training horses
“I’ve been asked so many times since then [winning] the cup: “When are you retiring?” I understand why.
“Win [it] was my ultimate goal, so I was lost for a while after that. But I didn’t want to panic and now, [after] Eight years, it seems like the right time.’
Payne suffered six serious concussions in her athletics career, including a horror fall at Sandown that left her with a concussion and fractured skull in 2004 when she was just 18.
She is now looking forward to a break from the physical strain of competitions.
“It’s hard to stay in shape for competitions,” she explains.
“It’s a lot of work, both physically and mentally. But I’ve done really well this year because I see an end in sight. I’m really motivated. My body feels great.
“I’ve got a really nice young team of horses that have been racing well and I’m just enjoying it while it lasts.”
Payne is happy to continue working as a trainer in the sport, but says nothing compares to winning a major race as a jockey.
Payne will go down in history as the only woman to win the famous Melbourne Cup
“Being a jockey is a whole different adrenaline rush that you can’t even imagine,” she said.
“Being outside, competing and having that connection with the horse is probably what I’ll miss the most.” It’s very special, the bond you form. Right now, training and [riding] them in a race.
“This will probably be the hardest thing to escape from. “But I knew it was coming and I mentally prepared myself for it.”
The pioneering jockey says she will now have a bit more time to be more social – and that’s something she’s looking forward to.
“If you want to compete well, you have to really commit to what you do,” she said.
“So you just have to miss it.” If you do it half-heartedly, you won’t get the result. This is what I sacrificed for so many years.’
“I’m looking forward to being more social and having more fun and adventure.”