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Michelle Payne faces battle to be fit for Cup

2015 Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance and jockey Michelle Payne with her brother, the strapper. Photo: Eddie JimOne of the leading owners of last year’s $6 million Melbourne Cup winner Prince Of Penzance maintains that jockey Michelle Payne faces a “near impossible” task of being fit to ride the stayer in his bid to win back-to-back Cups.
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Wealthy Ballarat businessman John Richards told Fairfax Media that while Payne was back riding at Ballarat, her quest to return in time for this year’s Cup would be “most difficult”.

“She is back riding work but she hasn’t got her jockey’s licence and while physically she’s building up, she’s yet to have any raceday fitness. That is so important,” Richards said.

“To be honest, I fear she faces a near impossible task. I think she feels she will be back in time but we are not optimistic.

“His [Prince Of Penzance] first start is coming up and if she can’t ride him, we’ve then got to look around and have someone ready to replace her.”

Prince Of Penzance is due to return to racing at Flemington in the Makybe Diva Stakes on September 10, leaving the 31-year-old a little over a month for her return.

Payne, who did not return calls to Fairfax Media, told the Australia Woman’s Weekly: “I have never hopped on a horse thinking ‘what if?’ I couldn’t wait to get back on [her horse] Woody. As soon as I was on him, I knew everything would be OK.”

She told the magazine that she’d had “the fire back in the belly”.

Payne’s family and her medical advisers were deeply concerned that she ran the risk of death if she suffered another serious racetrack fall following the tear to her pancreas in a tumble at Mildura in May.

After being in observation in the Mildura Hospital, she was flown to The Alfred hospital where she underwent a three-hour surgery to her liver and pancreas.

“It’s a Melbourne Cup and plans have got to be made,” Richards said.

Just three weeks ago, Payne returned to riding trackwork at her home town of Ballarat and was working with trainer Darren Weir and her younger brother Andrew in the past few weeks.

Many in the Payne family believe that the medical reports of Payne’s injuries will be the key to any return for the female jockey who became an overnight world celebrity with her win on Prince Of Penzance.

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