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She became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, overcame a critical injury and last month made racing history again as the first person in Victoria to win a race as both trainer and jockey. But, come Christmas, as the youngest of 10 children, she’s just one of the kids.


How will you spend Christmas this year?

We have a tradition where we all go back to my dad’s at Ballarat. I think my sister Cathy (married to 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Kerrin McEvoy) won’t be there this year because it is her turn to go to her husband’s family in Streaky Bay, but there’s usually about 35 of us. The kids all have their meal earlier so they are a bit out of the way. Then we all have our meal around the table. It is so lovely because we don’t all get to see each other very often like that.


What’s on the menu?

Because life is pretty hectic, we keep it pretty simple and very traditional. There is always a turkey and a big ham. We all have our jobs. My job is to make the punch, so I get out of it pretty easily. I basically make it by taste and I am very particular to use good alcohol (Grey Goose vodka, Bundaberg rum) and good champagne (Mumm) and put in mango, peaches, nectarines, bananas and all different types of juice. The first year I made it a bit strong and everyone was complaining they pulled up with a bit of a headache.


What was the best present you got as a kid?

Because there were so many children, we didn’t get presents for Christmas or birthdays growing up. I think my sister Therese used to feel bad for us so she used to pretend she was Santa Claus. We would put our pillowcases at the end of our beds and she would put lollies in them. When we look back it was such a crap present, but we were so happy. It was so exciting for us every year. Even when I was about seven or eight and worked out there was no Santa, I kept quiet so I wasn’t cut out of the action.


Most memorable Christmas?

Every Christmas is pretty much the same. It’s a bit of a games fest and we always have a soccer match. We can’t get enough of the old stories of growing up. Someone will start on a story and it gets on a roll and all of our brothers-in-law laugh. Not that story again. They have to put up with it every year.


All is want for Christmas is …

I don’t really want for much. I am just glad to be healthy and happy. I am feeling really good and grateful to be back to full health.


Life As I know It, by Michelle Payne, with John Harms
Melbourne University Press, $32.95