Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne awarded The Don

Michelle Payne  - recipient of The Don award

Michelle Payne - recipient of The Don award

An unprecedented ride followed by unforgettable comments in victory has seen Michelle Payne awarded the esteemed Don prize for producing the most inspired moment in Australian sport in the past year.

The first female jockey to win a Melbourne Cup, on Prince of Penzance in 2015, Payne put a political exclamation mark on her feat when she described her sport as "chauvinistic" and said those who doubted the ability of females to succeed should "get stuffed".

In the more formal setting of a black tie ceremony held in Melbourne on Thursday night to celebrate the 32nd Sport Australia Hall of Fame inductions Payne - without a ride in this year's Melbourne Cup but hoping one will emerge - accepted what she termed an "incredible honour, unbelievable really" to a standing ovation.

"I could never have believed everything that has happened since the race, absolutely not in my wildest dreams. It was very much a life changing race," the 31-year-old said.

Payne's well-documented fall while racing in May this year had also been seminal she said, describing it as the "toughest challenge" of her life.

"I've always been grateful for any luck I've had but I think now, more than ever, I am just happy to be healthy and doing what I love. Anything from now is a bonus," Payne reflected.

One bonus she is openly hoping for in the next month is the chance to line up in another Melbourne Cup. At this point, though, Payne has no ride: "Not at this stage," she said, "but you never lose hope."

Named after Sir Donald Bradman, the first legend of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame which was established in 1985, the Don prize has been awarded since 1998.

Prior Don winners include Ian Thorpe (1999), Cathy Freeman OAM (2000), Cadel Evans (2011), Sally Pearson (2014, 2012) and last year's recipient Jason Day.

The selection committee includes Robert de Castella, Raelene Boyle, John Bertrand and Bruce McAvaney; the same group that determines hall of fame inductees and the new legend.

Payne was selected ahead of other Don award nominees Dylan Alcott, Kim Brennan, Kyle Chalmers, Curtis McGrath, Anna Meares, Jonathan Thurston and the Rugby 7s Australian women's Olympic team.