25 June 2020, The Tablet

Queen of the turf


Queen of the turf

Australian actress Teresa Palmer as Michelle Payne


Ride Like a Girl
Director: Rachel Griffiths

Early in 1986 a Catholic mother of 10 died in a car crash. Her youngest daughter was only six months old, and still breastfeeding, at the time. Twenty-nine years later, on 3 November 2015, that child became the first ever female to win Australia’s most prestigious horse race, the Melbourne Cup. This film tells the story of the years between these two events.

There are, we hear, two religions in the rumbustious, noisy Payne household, presided over by the widowed Paddy – and Catholicism comes in at a close second. Racing is the passion that keeps the family going after Mary’s death, and it is both the anchor and the storm on which the family’s continuing dramas hang. Michelle – the central figure of the movie, and the jockey who won the Melbourne Cup – ends up in a coma after being thrown from her horse; another sister, Bridget, is killed in a fall.

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