Michelle Payne looked relaxed and confident as she jumped aboard Kaspersky for her first ride at Royal Ascot. In the end her mount finished out of the money but he ran above expectations, coming home fifth in a top class Group One field.
The race was won by Ribchester, trained in the north by Richard Fahey and ridden by William Buick for Godolphin. But it was Payne that many racegoers were eager to catch a glimpse of as she paraded and was introduced to the huge crowd with the other jockeys before the first race.
She’d have been at home in the heat too, as the temperatures soared leading to unprecedented scenes as the bowler-hatted Ascot gatemen, paragons of tradition in every way, were given dispensation to remove their jackets as the Ascot authority sensibly relaxed their stringent dress code.
Payne described the day as a “day I’ll never forget.” However, when asked to draw comparisons with the Melbourne Carnival she refused to be drawn, diplomatically saying “It’s hard to compare Ascot with our Melbourne Cup Carnival.”
In the race she started out towards the back but her horse travelled well through the race and she made good headway in the latter stages to belie the 66/1 odds that were on offer.
One thing is for sure, UK fans will be looking forward to seeing Payne return in August when she takes part in Ascot’s annual Shergar Cup when she’ll join a team of other lady jockeys to take on the best male riders in the world.