On this, the eve of the $6.2 million Melbourne Cup, the nation’s sports pages are jostling for a piece of one jockey: Katelyn Mallyon.
Her horse, Assign, isn’t the favourite – in fact it’s paying $51 – but she’s the only female rider in this year’s race. And after last-year’s glass-ceiling-smashing victory by Michelle Payne, fingers are crossed for a second female victory
“I never thought at 22 years old that I’d be riding in my first Melbourne Cup,” Mallyon told Sunday Night.
“Michelle won it last year, and I’d love to follow in her footsteps and win it this year.”
Katelyn is hoping to fulfill a life-long dream tomorrow. Image: Getty.
She might only be young, but Mallyon has been raised right in the thick of the racing industry. She's the fourth generation of a famous dynasty of riders, and her grandfather Mick won the Caulfield Cup three times.
But the Victorian woman has also flirted with a side gig as a model, having been offered a contract after being scouted walking along Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall.
“I did one [catwalk] lesson and I didn’t like it,’’ Mallyon told The Herald Sun.
“I said to Mum, ‘I’m not going back again, I’ve got to ride trackwork in the morning and I can’t stay up any later because I’ve got to get up early’. That was the end of my modelling career.’’
It's always been racing — even after a brutal fall at Flemington in 2012 that left her with a spinal fracture, a lacerated spleen and facial injuries. Mercifully, Mallyon doesn't remember it.
“If you could remember hitting the ground at that speed I’m sure it would not have been nice,’’ she said.
“But not much scares me. I’m a bit of thrill-seeker and that’s why I do this job.’’
Mallyon isn't surprised about the furious press attention around her this week, given Payne's historic win last year. But while Payne was an outspoken critic of the gender divide in racing, for Mallyon, it's never been quite so black and white.
“I’ve never felt what she’s felt, but she has been there a lot longer than me,’’ Mallyon told The Herald Sun.
“When I came on to the scene the times were already changing. Riders like Clare Lindop paved the way. I haven’t really felt as strongly about the whole boy-girl issue as Michelle has.’’
Still, with that victory came a window into what's possible.
“I think all the girls feel a bit more confident about what we are doing now,’’ she said.
"There are plenty of girls coming through who know what is achievable. Thanks to Michelle riding a 100-1 winner in the Melbourne Cup, we’re proving ourselves.’’