But the 100-1 outsider was going so well, the first woman to win the world’s most famous horse race had just one thought as the large field thundered down the long Flemington straight – “stuff that!”.
“He was travelling that well coming around the corner he was actually pulling,” said Michelle, who left a star-studded field in her wake with no excuses.
“I’ve never yelled that much after getting to the lead – this is unbelievable, it’s like a dream come true.”
Michelle, 30, who was having her second attempt at the coveted 3200m event, is just the fourth female to ride in the 155 year history of the Melbourne Cup.
She also rode Allez Wonder in 2009 for the legendary Bart Cummings, but could only muster 16th in the field of 23.
Confident the one-paced $50,000 New Zealand buy had the guts to win a Cup one day, Michelle was fiercely loyal to the six-year-old since their winning partnership began three years ago.
But she admits she still had to fight to keep the ride as the $6.2 million event that stops the nation drew closer.
“It’s great that Darren give me a go when it’s such a chauvinistic sport,” says Michelle, the only female rider in the race this year.
“It’s very male dominant and people think we’re not strong enough, but it’s not all about strength, it’s getting them in a rhythm, getting them to try for you and being patient.
“I just want to say to the rest of them who said I couldn’t do it, ‘stuff you, we’re as good as all the rest of them’.
“We don’t get enough of a go so hopefully this will help the rest of them [female riders].”
It was a real family affair for a jubilent Michelle as she steered Prince Of Penzance back to the stunned crowd of 100,000 at Flemington.
The first person from the horse’s camp to greet her was her beaming brother and strapper Steve Payne, a shining example for others inflicted with Down syndrome.
Steve had shadowed Michelle all week; to trackwork, to barrier draws and countless interviews – the siblings who share a home have been almost inseparable.
Despite urgings from her family years ago to hang up the saddle, it is only now that Michelle has considered having her own family after beginning to care for a small team, which she jokes will at least end the risk of “getting taken off” a mount.
“It’s probably going to be a bit sad to hang up the saddle so it would be a nice way to go out,” says Michelle.
“I’m not sure how long the transition period will be, but it will be something great to get into.
“I only want a really small team and being a trainer is such a hard job. I’ve had a hard life being a jockey, but it will be nice to wind down, have a family and train two or three horses.”