Michelle Payne targets Melbourne Cup glory as a trainer

Story highlights

Michelle Payne is doubling up as jockey and trainer

But her sights are set on life out of the saddle

CNN  — 

How do you follow riding the winner of the Melbourne Cup?

For the 2015 victor, Michelle Payne, the challenge is now to train the first past the winning post of a race that stops a nation.

The 31-year-old has not turned her back on an impressive riding career but having endured a litany of falls, incurring brain damage in one and most recently having three quarters of her pancreas severed after being trampled on by a horse, she is planning for life after riding.

“I’d love to win the Melbourne Cup as a trainer,” the Australian tells CNN from Nottingham Farm, the stables which she now heads up. “That’s what every trainer will strive towards. It’s what I want to do.”

READ: Horse sale of the century comes with royal approval

Working alongside her at Ballarat is brother Stevie, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and worked closely as a strapper with Cup winner Prince of Penzance. He was partly credited with keeping such a jittery horse calm ahead of his sister’s success.

In all, she has six horses in training and another half a dozen young horses being prepared for future races, with a young female apprentice assisting her in the yard.

“The training is something I’ve been planning towards a long time now,” she says. “I’m preparing for the riding to come to an end.

“It will be hard to say goodbye but I’ve had a number of bad injuries and obviously one day I want to have a family of my own. But it’s a long-range plan so I’m not stopping just yet.”

READ: Wings of Eagles stuns field at Epsom Derby

‘I don’t see this as a job’

The transition from saddle to stables means her life is more of a juggling act than usual. Her day starts as early as 4:30 am and does not generally end until about 8:30 pm, once she’s spoken to the owners of the horses she trains.

Is it tiring? “Put it this way, I find it pretty easy to get to sleep!” she quips.

“But the thing is it’s an enjoyable job, in fact most of the time I don’t see it as a job. It’s what I love to do.”

And the global notoriety garnered by that famous win, and the “get stuffed” quip in response to those that doubted her, mean she is taken away from the yard on occasion.

Last month, she traveled to Washington DC in the US to pick up the Longines Ladies Award and this week she flew to the UK to ride in the prestigious, 177-year-old Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday (June 20), placing fifth.

Her horse, Kaspersky, might have been an outsider for the Group 1 race with a £600,000 purse, but she relishes the opportunity of riding around the globe.

“The UK’s been good to me and I think last time I was here I had something like 25 rides,” she says. “And I’ve ridden in Ireland, France, the US, Mauritius and New Zealand.”

06:09 - Source: CNN
Melbourne Cup: The race that surprised a nation

READ: Why the Derby was almost the Kentucky Bunbury

A sponge of information

She admits the Melbourne Cup has aided her in the number of opportunities that have come her way both in and out of the saddle, and 18 months on from her triumph, she has finally come to terms with her fame.

“To start with it was a big shock,” she says. “It took a while to get used to but I’m in a position to enjoy it a bit more now. I think before I felt overawed, it felt like a burden in some ways. Now it’s something I feel like I can really enjoy.”

Growing up, all Payne ever dreamed about was winning the Melbourne Cup. With that dream realized, the ambition is shifting towards emulating the great trainers of the Australian tracks.

Payne would love to follow Sheila Laxon and Gai Waterhouse as the third female trainer to win her home race.

And she has been like a sponge in recent years as she looks to the second chapter in her horse racing career.

“I’ve absolutely been picking the brains of every training for six or seven years now,” she says, “and it’s been such a long range plan. I’ve been asking questions and learning as much as I can.

“It’s good to work with as many trainers as you can because there’s no exact right way and they’re all so different. You have to be like a sponge and find the way that works for you.

Michelle Payne with brother Stevie after her Melbourne Cup success.

Set for the silver screen

“Take Gai Waterhouse for example, the way she’s run her business and her achievements – that’s amazing. And then there’s Sheila Laxon but, of course, anyone successful you look up to in this business.”

Already a movie is being made of her story, Ride Like a Girl, by actress turned director Rachel Griffiths, who starred in films such as Muriel’s Wedding, Hacksaw Ridge, and Hilary and Jackie.

Filming is expected to begin at the end of this year, although the role of Payne has yet to be cast. As for a preference, she says: “I don’t know. Whoever it is, it’s going to be strange seeing them play me on the screen. It’s taking me a while to get used to the idea.”

Visit cnn.com/winningpost for more news and videos

One part missing from the fairytale is her failure to persuade trainer Darren Weir to let Prince of Penzance retire at her yard.

“I understand that as he’d trained him back from all the injuries,” she adds. “He might change is mind – never say never – but it looks unlikely.”

Whatever the case, with the new section of her career taking off there look likely to be new chapters to her story.