It has been seven extraordinary years since Michelle Payne last rode at Randwick and when she returns on Everest day, it will be in a unique role as trainer and jockey of Sydney Stakes contender Kaspersky.
Payne reckons her last ride in Sydney was aboard Yosei when she finished third to More Joyous in the 2012 Doncaster Mile.
Much has happened since – an historic Melbourne Cup win aboard Prince Of Penzance, the chance to ride at Royal Ascot, and the making of a movie, ‘Ride Like A Girl’.
Inspiration for the movie came from her real-life journey to become the first female jockey to win a Melbourne Cup.
“It has been pretty crazy but it has been so much fun,” Payne said.
“We’re actually in New Zealand at the moment, it’s (Ride Like A Girl) about to be released over here next week so we’ve been doing a bit of promotional work.”
Show business might be a sideline novelty but Payne’s real business remains horses.
After winning the Cup, she realised her dream of establishing a boutique training complex in Victoria and took out a dual trainer-jockey licence.
However, her status was not permitted under the NSW rules of racing, and not for the first time, Payne fought hard for change.
She met with Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’Landys and chief steward Mark Van Gestel to agitate for permission to train and ride her horses in NSW, eventually getting her wish.
Kaspersky will be her first NSW runner as a dual licence holder when he tackles the Sydney Stakes (1200m), two years after injury halted his career following the 2017 Toorak Handicap.
It has been a long road back but we’ve got there,” Payne said.
“It has been two years of consistently icing him and rubbing his legs, on the treadmill and water walking, taking him to the beach.
“And he is the most magnificent horse to work with. He’s a big black stallion, he is intelligent, it has just been a pleasure.”
Payne has fitted blinkers to Kaspersky for his first run over 1200 metres, his best form being over a mile and further.
She doesn’t expect him to win but hopes he is working into the race late and shows enough to keep alive plans to run him in next year’s Doncaster Mile.
“He’s nine-years-old but he is really lightly raced and I feel like the mile at Randwick will really suit him,” Payne said.
“We will see how he goes Saturday but there is a long-range plan there.”