A year ago, Michelle Payne won the Melbourne Cup. Today, she watched from the sidelines.

Exactly 12 months ago, Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win one of the most famous races in the world. She was the only female jockey to ride that year.

It was a moment of triumph.

You probably remember watching Payne with her hands in the air, a look of exhilaration on her face as she gloriously galloped past the finish line. I certainly do; I remember thinking, ‘This is it. Another great moment for women in the industry.’

The racing industry stands as an old school sport founded on a strict class system of elites, tradition and money. It is one of the old industries that has maintained its patriarchal monotony well into the 21st century.

Payne is the first woman to ever have won the historic race. Image via Getty.

But Payne's win was going to be the moment that changed that, right?


The moment the men of racing had no choice but to look Payne straight in the eye, shake her hand and wish her congratulations as the glass ceiling shattered into thousands of pieces around her. They had to sit there gritting their teeth as she used her platform to share her now infamous message for the "chauvinist" people (in which she describes as "some owners") who doubted her to "get stuffed".

Today, a year later, Australia again turned its full attention to Flemington. But instead of galloping in the great race, Payne was sidelined to the stands — only a couple of weeks after receiving the prestigious 'Don' Award from the Australia Sporting hall of fame for the most inspiring sporting moment in the past 12 months. And it didn't come as welcome news.

In August, when the owners of Price of Penzance — the horse upon which she won last year's Cup — told Payne she wouldn't be riding this year, she responded with frustration.

Michelle beat out Olympic gold medalists to win the prestigious Don award this year. Image via Getty.  

"Not anymore I'm done, why work your arse off for people who don't appreciate what you do and write you off anyway #moretolife," the jockey wrote in a now-deleted tweet.

When asked whether or not Payne was missing out this year due to her gender, Australian Jockeys' Association general manager Des O'Keeffe denied any indication that it was the reason; industry insiders were pointing to her injury earlier this year that had her out of the track until September.

However, O'Keeffe earlier conceived that her harsh words post-victory may not have resonated with the hands that feed her career.

"There are people in the industry who certainly wouldn't be of her view. They're normally 50-plus-year-old males in senior positions, but she's the one living the life," he said.

Payne's disgrunted tweet has since been deleted. Image via Twitter.

While it would be unwise to ignore the role injury plays in sidelining professional athletes in their sport, you can't help but wonder whether the guise of an injury was conveniently used as the smoke screen to ice out racing's outspoken darling.

Yet surely the racing industry has been open to change since the issue of equality was catapulted into the media and Payne became a superstar?

When asked, Des O'Keeffe admitted, "Has there been a tsunami of change? No there hasn't. Did anyone really expect there to be? Probably not. Twelve months on and nothing has changed."

So, was Payne out purely due to injury — in which case her own father suggested that maybe"it might be time to get married and have a few kids and just take a break"?

Or was the sad reality that even on the back of her victory, nothing has uprooted the old racing belief that a good colt will always beat a good filly?


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