Ride Like a Girl is an Australian sports drama film first released in September 2019. Directed by Rachel Griffiths, it follows the career of Michelle Payne, who has always dreamed of becoming a jockey.
Despite a near-fatal fall and family tragedy, Michelle prevails in a male-dominated sport and wins the race that stops a nation: the Melbourne Cup. Riding the underdog Prince of Penzance at odds of 100/1, Michelle becomes the first female jockey to win the prestigious race in its 155-year history.
This feel-good movie about dreams, passion and determination will appeal to any horse lover, whether you’re into horse racing or not. It’s currently rated 6.56/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and has received praise for its heartfelt storyline. Ride Like a Girl has also received several Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards nominations.
Here are 10 interesting facts and FAQs about the Ride Like a Girl movie!
Is Ride Like a Girl based on a true story?
Ride Like a Girl is based on the true story of Michelle Payne, an Australian jockey who made history by winning the Melbourne Cup in 2015. Due to the involvement of Michelle Payne herself and her family, the movie accurately depicts the life and career of this famous jockey.
Born in 1985, Michelle Payne was the youngest of ten children in her family. Following a tragic car accident, she lost her mother at only six months old and was raised by her father, exactly as the movie portrays.
Michelle’s father, Paddy Payne, was an accomplished racehorse trainer in real life. As a result of his influence, eight of his ten children became professional jockeys, including Michelle. According to RadioTimes.com, she already had eyes on the Melbourne Cup when she was seven years old.
As we mentioned in our Michelle Payne guide, she entered the cup in 2009, when she finished 16th out of 23 riders. When she won the Melbourne Cup six years later, she was only the fourth woman to ride in the big race.
Michelle hoped that her historical win would inspire current and future female jockeys to pursue their dreams in the sport. “I just promised Michelle we should not make stuff up, that we would make a film that she could watch with her whole family, and they wouldn’t want to punch us in the face,” she told Mamamia.
The movie was inspired by Michelle Payne’s victory speech
After her glorious victory, Michelle Payne gave a memorable speech to all of Australia via live television. During the speech, she famously told all those who didn’t believe in her along the way to “get stuffed”. It was this victory speech that inspired Australian actress and director Rachel Griffiths to make the movie.
Included in our list of the best horse movies, Ride Like a Girl was actually the first movie Griffiths directed. She even makes an appearance herself as the nun holding the TV antenna during one of Michelle’s races!
Griffiths has always thought of Michelle’s story as a kind of fairy tale. When talking about her Melbourne Cup win to Mamamia, Michelle admitted she had a similar feeling. “It was a very daunting experience but it did all feel like a fairytale. It just felt like everything was falling into place, and I was so confident that something amazing was about to happen,” she shared.
Still, the concept of a movie being made about her life surprised Michelle at first. “When I crossed that line it was like a fairytale had come true, but I never thought there would be a film made about my life,” she revealed to Mamamia. While several directors tried to sign a contract with her, Michelle sold the rights to Griffiths because she was determined to stay true to the facts.
Here is Michelle Payne’s 2015 Melbourne Cup victory speech:
Where was Ride Like a Girl filmed?
Ride Like a Girl was primarily filmed in Melbourne and regional Victoria, Australia. While the exact location of the Payne family farm set is unknown, several racecourses appear in the movie. These include Ballarat, Sunbury, Flemington, Macedon Ranges, Caulfield, Jan Juc, the Moonee Valley, Werribee, Balnarring, and Hanging Rock.
Stevie Payne played himself in the movie
Stevie is Michelle Payne’s 35-year-old brother who has Down’s syndrome. When she won the Melbourne Cup in 2015, Michelle dedicated her victory to her brother.
When he found out about Ride Like a Girl, Stevie offered to play himself in the movie. According to the cast and crew, he was a natural on set and amazed everyone with his acting.
As revealed on racingvictoria.com, getting to know Stevie Payne was the most special experience for Teresa Palmer from the entire filming. She also confirmed that Michelle has dreamed about having her own farm with Stevie as her #1 strapped.
The popular jockey “Olly” in Ride Like a Girl is a Melbourne Cup winner
In the movie, the jockey nicknamed “Olly” portrays Damien Oliver, who won the Melbourne Cup after causing a major horse racing scandal. In 2010, Oliver placed a $10,000 bet on a rival horse in a race he rode in. He ended up making an $11,000 profit from his bet and was charged with sports misconduct.
The horse racing committee suspended him for eight months until September 13, 2013. Shortly after returning to racing, Damien Oliver made a name for himself by winning the Melbourne Cup.
A racehorse took off with Teresa Palmer during filming
On Mamamia, director Rachel Griffiths talks about the most terrifying three minutes of filming Ride Like a Girl. It turns out, Teresa Palmer had a first-hand experience of what it’s like to ride like a jockey!
“I had this one day with Teresa on the horse at Flemington, and it was supposed to be just a small moment,” Griffiths described. “We had rehearsed this scene three times, but the horse Teresa was on had been a racehorse and had run at Flemington, which I didn’t know. So he got triggered when these two other horses went past him. He had a flashback and thought he was back at Flemington, and so he took off.“
Immediately, a crew member at Flemington rode after her, which made the situation even worse. Her horse Lord was now convinced he was really in a race and ran even faster! So the chase had to stop, and Lord galloped out of sight.
Just imagine the terror in Teresa Palmer’s mind when she was hanging on for dear life on a galloping racehorse! In fact, the director could hear her pray as she had a microphone attached for the scene. For 24 hundred meters, Palmer was praying that she would live to raise her children.
Fortunately, the access managed to get the horse down to a canter and then safely dismount. After the terrifying incident, Palmer told Michelle, “I have a newfound respect for you.”
Also read, 8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Michelle Payne.
What horse played Prince of Penzance in Ride Like a Girl?
Prince of Penzance was the horse Michelle rode when she won the Melbourne Cup in 2015. The Thoroughbred gelding was bred in New Zealand and purchased for the relatively modest $50,000 by trainer Darren Weir. Like in the movie, the real-life Michelle Payne also claimed to have a special relationship with the horse.
Prince of Penzance in Ride Like a Girl was played by one of the 23 ex-racehorses that starred in the movie. The horses were trained and coordinated by the accomplished trainer Chris Symons.
The victorious run of Prince of Penzance at the Melbourne Cup shocked the entire nation. Not only because a female jockey rode him but also because the horse started with odds of 100 to 1. This basically meant a win was impossible.
Who is the dad in Ride Like a Girl?
In Ride Like a Girl, the dad was played by Sam Neil, a New Zealand actor of Irish heritage. Neil has played major roles in other horse movies such as Dreamer and The Horse Whisperer and big productions like Jurassic Park.
Sam Neil had actually met Michelle and Paddy Payne when he was researching for his role. To portray the famous trainer accurately, Neil filmed Payne doing his chores around the horses. He didn’t want people to watch him and say “Paddy would never do anything like that!” (Source: racingvictoria.com).
Paddy Payne inspired many with his wisdom and incredible work ethic. The movie embraced one of his sayings: “The only thing that matters is the odds you give yourself.” Sam Neil himself thought that raising ten kids as a single dad defies imagination.
Meanwhile, the actor’s dedication to this character impressed audiences and directors alike. Even Michelle Payne praised his performance, saying “He’s so like my dad!” Similarly, Teresa Palmer, who plays Michelle in Ride Like a Girl, also met with the Payne family.
Does Netflix have Ride Like a Girl?
Netflix has Ride Like a Girl in certain countries such as Australia and the United States. Elsewhere, like in the United Kingdom, the movie is only available via on-demand streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, Google Plan, or Apple TV.
What age is Ride Like a Girl suitable for?
Ride Like a Girl is suitable for children aged 13 and above. Between the ages of 10 to 13, parental guidance is advised. Although Ride Like a Girl is a family-friendly movie, it’s not recommended for children under 10.
Here is a brilliant interview with Michelle and Stevie Payne about Ride Like a Girl: