Michelle Payne has backed red-hot favourite Vauban to win the Melbourne Cup, with the trail-blazing jockey preparing to end her vaunted riding career. The 38-year-old will retire from riding early next year but will continue training, devoting her attention to stayers.
"It's hard to keep in shape for racing competitively," she told Stellar Magazine recently. "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."
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Speaking at the start of the Melbourne Cup carnival, the 2015 winner said: "It's been something that I've obviously been thinking about and had on my mind for the past sort of eight years since winning the Melbourne Cup, but just wanted to wait till the right time. I've got some really nice horses at home that I want to ride into the autumn but this carnival does feel different because it's sort of an end of an era for me."
She became a household name in 2015 when she steered 100-1 chance Prince of Penzance to victory in the race that stops the nation, becoming the only female jockey to win the iconic event in its long history. "It's amazing to think that one race can change your life as much as the Melbourne Cup has changed mine," she said. "It's incredible to think what one three-minute race has done for my life, and the movie and the opportunities I've been able to take from that is mind-blowing."
Some words of advice from Michelle Payne to visiting jockey Hollie Doyle who will be trying to take after Michelle and win the Lexus Melbourne Cup! pic.twitter.com/sD2x2wuGyt
— Maggie Payne (@maggiepayne_) November 7, 2023
The 38-year-old Payne said she knew she had a special horse in Prince of Penzance and that everything in his Cup preparation had gone their way. "You need to have the right horse but you need to have the perfect preparation as well," she said.
"They've got to be peaking at the right time. It was amazing with him because in the lead-up in the week before, everything just seemed to be falling into place. He was flying and his final gallop on the Friday before running in the Cup was the best he'd ever worked in his life and thankfully it all worked out for me."
Michelle Payne makes prediction on Melbourne Cup winner
The champion jockey said her pick for this year's race is Vauban. The French-bred, Irish-trained gelding is the short-price favourite to take out the Cup for shrewd veteran trainer Willie Mullins, who also prepared Max Dynamite when Payne beat him into second in 2015.
"I like Vauban," Payne said. "I was really blown away by his effort when I saw him at Royal Ascot and Willie Mullins has obviously come very close.
"He finished second with Max Dynamite the year Prince won it. I'm sure he's definitely keen to take the Cup home and he looks like he's got the right horse so he's my pick, but obviously, as always in the Cup, it's very open."
Payne said More Felons would be her choice if she had to pick a 'roughie' to salute in the Cup. "If she can slot in with a bit of cover and have a bit of luck, she's in the right shape," she told SEN radio.
Melbourne Cup field:
GOLD TRIP (2) T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace J: James McDonald 58.5kg
ALENQUER (9) T: Michael Moroney J: Damien Oliver 56.5kg
WITHOUT A FIGHT (16) T: Anthony & Sam Freedman J: Mark Zahra 56.5kg
BREAKUP (18) T: Tatsuya Yoshioka J: Kohei Matsuyama 55kg
VAUBAN (3) T: Willie Mullins J: Ryan Moore 55kg
SOULCOMBE (4) T: Chris Waller J: Joao Moreira 53.5kg
ABSURDE (8) T: Willie Mullins J: Zac Purton 53kg
RIGHT YOU ARE (15) T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace J: John Allen 53kg
VOW AND DECLARE (19) T: Danny O'Brien J: Billy Egan 53kg
CLEVELAND - SCRATCHED
ASHRUN (11) T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace J: Kerrin McEvoy 51.5kg
DAQIANSWEET JUNIOR (12) T: Phillip Stokes J: Daniel Stackhouse 51.5kg
OKITA SOUSHI (20) T: Joseph O'Brien J: Dylan Gibbons 51.5kg
SHERAZ (22) T: Chris Waller J: Beau Mertens 51.5kg
LASTOTCHKA (21) T: Mick Price & Michael Kent (Jr) J: Craig Williams 51kg
MAGICAL LAGOON (7) T: Chris Waller J: Mark Du Plessis 51kg
MILITARY MISSION (5) T: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott J: Rachel King 51kg
SERPENTINE (1) T: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott J: Jye McNeil 51kg
VIRTUOUS CIRCLE (6) T: Liam Howley J: Craig Newitt 51kg
MORE FELONS (23) T: Chris Waller J: Jamie Kah 50.5kg
FUTURE HISTORY (13) T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace J: Hollie Doyle 50kg
INTERPRETATION (17) T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace J: Teo Nugent 50kg
KALAPOUR (14) T: Kris Lees J: Zac Lloyd 50kg
TRUE MARVEL (10) T: Matthew Smith J: Ben Thompson 50kg
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