HUNDREDS of excited people from all walks of life flocked to the Ballarat premiere of the highly-anticipated Ride Like A Girl film at the Regent Theatre on Sunday afternoon.
Michelle Payne and her beloved brother Stevie attended the premiere of the film, which portrays the journey of the proud Ballarat woman in becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup when she rode Prince of Penzance to victory in 2015.
Though she was initially nervous, Payne said she was excited to share her extraordinary story with everyone.
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Coming from a family of 10 children, Payne was raised by her father after her mother died in a car accident when she was a baby.
She overcame injury, the odds and misogyny to take home the cup, which she called out in her post-race interview, when she told anyone who didn't believe women were strong enough to compete to "get stuffed".
"It was a really long road to that day in 2015, a lot of hard work and overcoming tragedy so it's nice to share that story," she said.
"If I can help people that are going through a hard time, that makes me really happy."
She saw many familiar faces in the crowd as well as others she did not know and said she appreciated the community continuing to show her so much support.
"It's really exciting because I'm a proud Ballarat girl and I grew up here most of my life. It's so great to be here because when you're from Ballarat, you're very proud to be from here."
Payne said she loved the film, especially the music, colour and emphasis on family but what she loved most was that her brother Stevie was able to depict himself.
"He excelled and exceeded all expectations about how good he was going to be. It's the best part of the whole process of the movie, to have him play himself," she said.
Stevie, beaming with pride for himself and his sister, said he felt a bit like a celebrity seeing himself on the silver screen.
He loved the process of filming and has even been offered other acting roles.
Payne said female representation in the sport had come a long way since she rose to fame as the first woman to win the event in its 155-year history, and that the perception of female jockeys was continuing to change.
She said this was evident with the three female jockeys winning the major race and two other feature races at Flemington at the weekend.
She encouraged all aspiring young female jockeys to believe in themselves and said it was "really special" that so many young girls now looked to her as a role model.
"It's really special for me because I had so many great role models myself and I know how important it was having them growing up and showing me that things are possible, that might not have seemed so without them," she said.
It's really special for me that I can now be a role model to the next generation because I wouldn't be sitting here today without the ones I had. It's good to carry that tradition on.Michelle Payne
Loreto College students Caitlin James (year 12), Emily Crockett (year 11) and Claira Constable (year 10) were three of a dozen extras during scenes filmed at Payne's former school.
The three were chosen for their involvement with theatre studies and drama.
"It's inspiring that she is from our school and to see how far she has come," Ms James said.
Ms Constable said it was "awesome" that somebody from a small town had grown to be an inspiration to so many.
Matilda Tozer, a 13-year-old horse rider, was also at the cinema for the premiere.
Matilda frequently rides her horse Frankie and even used to ride her to school in Buninyong.
She has been riding for about five years and said Michelle Payne was inspiring to her and that she one day hoped to win the Melbourne Cup too.
Payne also mentioned Sandy McGregor - one of the owners of Prince of Penzance - who was instrumental in the decision for Stevie to draw the barrier and be strapper for Stevie that day.
"He wouldn't have been up in lights like he was without him," she said.
Producer Richard Keddie said the Ballarat screening was important as it is the home of the story.
He said the film, which has been sold all around the world, told a great story about Ballarat that was honest, uplifting and inspiring.
The film will be released in cinemas across the nation on September 26.
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