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THE whole town’s still talking about Michelle Payne and her amazing Melbourne Cup victory. And so it should.
Michelle is a breath of fresh air in an industry dominated by blokes and people with obscene amounts of money. The whole country fell in love with this feisty little battler and her equally gorgeous brother Stevie. What a story!
Former Opposition Leader Mark Latham is being knocked from pillar to post for daring to suggest that Michelle might have been a little out of line with some of her post-race comments.
I’m not a big fan of Latham. I think he’s a buffoon, who now spends his life trying to shock and offend the nation, but in regards to Michelle and the Melbourne Cup, I’m with him.
All that Latham said on “The Verdict”, on the Nine Network, is that the rider shouldn’t have been so critical of those owners who wanted to take her off the horse.
The former Labor leader said that those discussions should be kept private and I think he’s right.
If you own a racehorse, you pay money each week or each month for that horse’s upkeep and training. As such you have the right to question the efforts of any jockey who rides your horse.
I think owners should always seek the advice of their trainer, but they certainly have the right to say to the owner: “I didn’t like the ride. Can we get someone else to ride this horse?”
Owners ask those questions every day of the week and, despite what Michelle may believe, gender usually has nothing to do with it. If you think the jockey “murdered” your horse then you’ll make some noise about it and try to get someone else on it.
I pay tribute to Michelle Payne as the first female rider to win the Melbourne Cup. I pay tribute to her for her journey and for everything that she’s achieved. But I don’t think it was fair to so publicly bag the owners who dared to question her position on the horse.
Just because she perceives this to be about gender doesn’t mean that it is.
I had a conversation about this with one of the genuine female trailblazers in the local racing industry, the great Barbara Joseph. Barb does not agree with Michelle Payne that racing is a chauvinistic industry. She continued to focus on the great female strides forward during the many years that she’s been involved.
“These days when you turn up to track work here in Canberra, most of the riders are women anyway,” she said.