Payne duo set to go after Cranbourne trial

Craig Brennan
Trainer/jockey Michelle Payne poses with two-year-old Stevie, named for her brother

The Melbourne Cup win by Prince Of Penzance catapulted Michelle Payne and her brother Stevie to stardom.

Michelle Payne became the first woman to ride the Cup winner and Stevie gained fame as his strapper, helping to showcase the capabilities of people with Down syndrome.

They now work closely together at Michelle Payne's property near the Ballarat racecourse where she is building her stable as she transitions from jockey to trainer.

Among her up-and-coming horses is a two-year-old called Stevie who is owned by his namesake.

Payne admits to teasing Stevie about the gelding saying he is a "round little fellow with a big belly" just like her brother.

"But he just laughs it off," she said.

"He's one of the favourites around the stable, so hence the name."

Stevie, the horse, had his first official trial at Cranbourne on Tuesday and after showing pace finished fourth behind Shirl's Dream, over 800m.

The performance surprised Payne after Stevie had two quiet jump-outs at Ballarat.

"I brought him here for experience, but he jumped and put himself on the speed and trialled really nicely," Payne said.

"Hopefully we can have a bit of fun with him."

Sweet Rockette, a horse Payne rode and trained to win a race at The Valley in 2018, is on the verge of a comeback after finishing second in an 800m-trial.

The mare is owned by many of Payne's former school friends along with Rachel Griffiths, director of Ride Like A Girl, the movie about Payne's life and rise to the top.

Sweet Rockette has been entered for Saturday's Rubiton Stakes at Caulfield and a Benchmark 70 race up the straight at Flemington on Sunday.

Now a four-year-old, Sweet Rockette has not raced since finishing near last at Sandown in November 2018.

Payne said Sweet Rockette was almost right to race last May before a setback.

"I put her in at Caulfield just in case it came up weaker and we were blown away by her trial," Payne said.

"I know she's going really well and I know she's a top class galloper, but at the same time I'd like to start her where I think she can win to get her confidence up.

"So I'm favouring the race on Sunday."