- Michelle Payne announces retirement
- Jockey says this will be her last season
- Is the only female to win the Melbourne Cup
Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne has confirmed that she will retire from racing after this season to focus primarily on training horses.
The 38-year-old stopped the nation when she rode Prince of Penzance to victory in the 2015 Melbourne Cup and become the first female jockey to lift the trophy in the history of the race.
Payne never imagined the path the groundbreaking victory would lead her on, but she has finally decided that she needs a change of pace.
Payne told News Corp that she almost didn’t qualify for a racing license this year because she hasn’t been racing enough – and that was the sign she needed to retire.
‘I was looking for a sign when it felt right. And this was it,’ said Payne.
Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne has announced she will retire from racing
Payne says that this season will be her last as a jockey before concentrating on training horses
‘I’ve been asked so many times since [winning] the Cup, “When are you retiring?” I understand why.
‘Winning [it] was my ultimate goal, so I was lost after that for a bit. But I didn’t want to panic and now, [after] eight years, it feels like the right time.’
Payne endured six major concussions in her career on the track, including a horror fall at Sandown that left her with bruising to the brain and a fractured skull in 2004 when she was just 18.
She is now welcoming some time away from the physical strain of competing.
‘It’s hard to keep in shape for racing competitively,’ she explains.
‘It’s a lot of work, both physically and mentally. But I’ve ridden really well this year because I see an end in sight. I’m really motivated. My body is feeling 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 still working in the sport as a trainer, but says nothing will compare to winning a big 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 couldn’t even imagine,’ she said.
‘Being out there, competing and having that connection with the horse is probably what I’m going to miss the most. It’s something really special, the bond you form. Especially now, training and [riding] them in a race.
‘That’s probably going to be the hardest thing to walk away from. But I was aware it was coming and prepared myself mentally for that.’
The trailblazing jockey says she will now have a little bit more time to be more social – and she’s looking forward to that.
‘If you want to compete well, you’ve got to really dedicate yourself to what you’re doing,” she said.
‘So you just have to miss out. If you do it half-hearted, you’re not going to get the result. I sacrificed that for so many years.’
‘I’m looking forward to being more social and having more fun and adventure.’