Snubbing of Michelle Payne for Randwick meeting is a disgrace
Date December 3, 2015
Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald
View more articles from Max Presnell
Payne can't get a ride at Randwick
Just when Sydney racing appeared to be embracing gender equality Michelle Payne was shunned for the Royal Randwick meeting.
Saviour of the Melbourne Cup this year, Payne has genuine class – in the saddle as well as at ground level – yet was unable to secure a mount for Saturday's nine-event program.
Class on and off the track: Michelle Payne after winning the Melbourne Cup.
Class on and off the track: Michelle Payne after winning the Melbourne Cup. Photo: Michael Dodge
Yes, it has been mentioned that small fields at this time of the year restricted options, but apart from a few major spring and autumn dates Sydney Saturdays rarely match the numbers of those in Melbourne and Brisbane.
The finger has been pointed in some quarters at the Australian Turf Club, the promoters of what should have been a major attraction.
However, at least two leading Sydney stables – Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse – were approached for rides without a positive response. In fairness to Waterhouse she didn't have suitable opportunities.
Maybe Waller was in the same predicament, but he was only too happy to give world champions such as Ryan Moore and Joao Moreira prime Randwick mounts last autumn upon which they hardly shone.
Was Godolphin, with Henry Plumptre and John O'Shea always keen to advance the industry, approached on the subject?
Perhaps the ATC should have contacted Brett Thompson from Gulgong to give Payne the opportunity in the TAB Highway for bush horses that hugely boost the harbour city's Saturday numbers rather than class.
Alas, Sydney racing in general, and Randwick in particular, was very slow out of the barrier when it came to female involvement. Dinosaurs might recall the yellow or golden line in the member's section of the Randwick betting ring upon which no female was allowed to cross. It was policed by green coats, aged attendants with a keen eye and passion for keeping outsiders in their place.
A green coat came to the fore in the 1974 Doncaster at Randwick won by Tontonan. Two streakers stole the limelight gallivanting down the straight. Photographer Ron Bickley captured the scene and later gave a helping hand when they attempted to exit via the member's enclosure.
"You can't come in here, you haven't got a badge on!" the green coat stressed. Bickley assisted the woman over the fence.
Generally stables were off-limits for females and if they were interested in riding, the Royal Easter Show was recommended or women-only events, termed powder puff derbies, on the racecourse.
Linda Jones, a New Zealander, was the first in Australasia to show that the regarded fragile gender could match it with the men on the turf, being the first to ride against them at Randwick, Rosehill, Doomben, Morphettville, Ascot and Canberra – and the first to win a feature event – the Labor Day Cup at Doomben in 1979.
New Zealand was always more accepting of female jockeys than Sydney. Melbourne, too, favoured them due to the Payne women, led by Therese, an elder sister of Michelle.
In 1986 champion Roy Higgins said of Therese Payne, who at 25 had ridden 350 winners: "She has beautiful hands and great balance. So many seem to run better for her than male riders."
And Michelle has continued the trend. Sure, her style and dignity extend beyond being on horses and she is handling the controversy with aplomb.
But racing needs heroes, even more so in this era of cobalt and whip focus. Payne fits the category. She should be seen matching it with James McDonald and our best at headquarters instead of just photo opportunities. It does our racing a disservice she isn't.http://www.smh.com.au/sport/horseracing/snubbing-of-michelle-payne-for-randwick-meeting-is-a-disgrace-20151203-glek9r.html