Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne is set to make a comeback to the saddle at the Victorian counrty meeting at Sale on Sunday.
Payne has been out of the saddle since a nasty fall at Mildura in May and had subsequent surgery to her pancreas which was damaged in the tumble.
But after months of rehabilitation Payne has been booked for two rides on Sunday, Lucky Liberty for trainer Henry Dwyer in the Pastry & Pieces BenchMark 84 Handicap (1000m) and Birds Of Tokyo for Luke Oliver in the Hollies Closet BenchMark 78 Handicap (1500m).
Payne has been deliberating for a long time if she would return to race riding but has worked her way back riding track work plus a tough training routine that has got her back to race fitness.
Dwyer said the booking of Payne for Lucky Liberty came about when he rang her up to discuss the building of a fence between their adjoining properties and before the conversation was over, Payne had been engaged for her comeback ride.
“It is quite funny how it all has come about, I rang Michelle to speak about a fence we need to build between our adjacent properties,” Dwyer told racing.com.
“We were just chatting away and sorting that out and then I just asked Michelle how her weight was.
“She said she was feeling great and down to 54kg and then I immediately thought of Lucky Liberty as I was needing a rider for Sunday.
“Mark Zahra was due to ride him at Sandown on Wednesday but with the meeting cancelled we needed to find another race.
“A lot of jockeys had already been secured for Sale and Mark couldn’t get down to 54.5kg so then I offered the ride to Michelle.”
Payne has been the only jockey to have ridden Lucky Liberty in his five race starts for three wins which earned him a place in the 2015 Group 1 $500,000 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington but could only beat one runner home when thirteenth behind Wandjina.
Lucky Liberty hasn’t started since and Dwyer has found a pretty strong BenchMark 84 Handicap for him to resume in.
Equal topweight Cauthen arrived in Australia from New Zealand at the beginning of the 2013 Spring Carnival with huge wraps on him but after winning the Listed $120,000 McKenzie Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley has failed to win another race.
The Darren Weir trained Hellbent was a winner two starts back in a BenchMark 78 Handicap at Sandown but won the bulk of his $296,550 prizemoney for his win in the $250,000 Inglis Dash (1100m) at Flemington in January.
And the John O’Shea trained Demonstrate was placed third two starts back in the Group 2 $250,000 Euclase Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville in May.
Birds Of Tokyo looks to have a strong chance in the Hollies Closet BenchMark 78 Handicap coming off a last start second in a 2000m Rosehill BenchMark 72 Handicap on August 27.
Payne created history when she became the first female jockey to win Australia’s most famous race, the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington last November on 100-1 shot Prince Of Penzance for premiership winning trainer Darren Weir.
Payne and Prince Of Penzance have been virtually inseparable throughout the seven year old’s career with the pair partnering up in twenty-four of his twenty-six race starts and she was hoping to team up again with the tough stayer in his defence of the Melbourne Cup trophy.