The Melbourne Cup was won by a female jockey – shock horror! For those not in the know, the Melbourne Cup, a flat race, is one of the most prestigious in the world and women are not expected to compete. Despite the fact that women may be thought of as more suitable from the perspective of weight and size, female jockeys have not so much been excluded, as either ignored, not chosen, or unable to compete in the qualifying races.
Michelle Payne, riding Prince of Penzance, was the first female in the 155-year history to win the Melbourne Cup, at the odds of a 100-1. The fourth woman to ever ride in the Cup, she won wearing the colours of the Suffragettes: purple, white and green.
Yet it may be amusing to reflect on one of the keenest race-goers in the country – the Queen. She had a female jockey, Hayley Turner, who won the Dreweatts Handicap Stakes and a trainer, Henrietta Knight, responsible for the Queen’s National Hunt racers. Even her favourite ‘Trooping the Colour’ horse was a black mare named Burmese.
Certainly grit and determination are key qualities for women’s success, as shown by Michelle. She has had two serious falls – including one in 2004 that fractured her skull that caused bleeding on her brain, nearly killing her. Tough times but it seems these events only make her stronger and having nine other siblings, she was likely to be used to competing for attention.
The media have since turned their attention to her successes, rather than her gender, and Michelle has highlighted that women have many suitable qualities. ‘I would like to say that, it’s a very male-dominated sport, and people think we are not strong enough and all of the rest of it…you know what?
“It’s not all about strength. There is so much more involved, getting the horse into a rhythm, getting the horse to try for you, being patient.”
“I’m so glad to win the Melbourne Cup and hopefully it will help female jockeys from now on to get more of a go.”
We say – roll on women champions, the role models for us all! Who are your female role models?
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