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Melbourne Cup win could shatter barriers for women

Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne has hit out at the racing world's 'chauvinistic' attitudes towards women. Picture by Andy Brownbill/AP 

AN Irish-Australian jockey's historic victory over male rivals in the Melbourne Cup is being hailed as a triumph that could help shatter barriers for women in sports around the world.

Michelle Payne secured her place in racing folklore on Tuesday on Prince of Penzance to become the first woman to win the prestigious race in its 155-year history.

Coincidentally, the 30-year-old - whose odds were as big as 100/1 to win the race that is known to ‘stop a nation’ - was wearing green, purple and white when she passed the post, the colours of International Women’s Day.

After being catapulted into the limelight, the jockey used her newly-achieved platform to lash out at sexism in the male-dominated ‘sport of kings’, telling anyone who believed women were not up to the challenge of racing and winning to “get stuffed”.

In a no-holds barred interview after her win, the Payne told Australia’s Channel 7 network: “It’s such a chauvinistic sport, I know some of the owners were keen to kick me off.”

Praising trainer Darren Weir and co-owner John Richards for having “stuck strongly” with her, Payne said: “I want to say to everyone else, ‘get stuffed’, because women can do anything and we can beat the world.”

Payne, an Australian whose family has Irish roots, also revealed her hopes that the win would encourage owners and trainers to “give more female jockeys a go”.

Her views were echoed by Irish-based racing figure Tracy Piggott, who described Payne’s achievement as a “great day for women in sport” all over the world.

“What she has done is great. It’s a very positive thing and it’s wonderful for her, but also for other women in sport,” the commentator said.

Ms Piggott, a jockey-turned-broadcaster and daughter of champion jockey Lester Piggott, said the success of Payne’s counterparts in Ireland in recent years was also proof that racing is a sport where women can make their mark alongside their male peers.

She was referring to riders like Nina Carberry, who won this year’s Foxhunters' Chase at Aintree riding On the Fringe, and Katie Walsh, who became the third woman to win the Irish Grand National riding Thunder And Roses last April.

“Michelle is a good jockey who has had success in the past but what she had done in the Melbourne Cup is a great way to show what female jockeys in general are capable of on the international stage and what Michelle has done can only be a positive thing for women across all sports."

Other women who rushed to praise Payne in the aftermath of her win included Australian Olympic cyclist Katherine Bates, who tweeted: “A few years ago Australia's female athlete of the year was a horse - maybe this year it will be the jockey. Congrats Michelle Payne.”

She was referring to the racehorse Black Caviar who pipped Olympic gold medallist athlete Sally Pearson at the post for 2012 Australian Sportswoman of the Year title.

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