Freddy Tylicki wins High Court case against fellow jockey Graham Gibbons
Freddy Tylicki achieved the most momentous victory of his life on Tuesday when the High Court upheld his claim against fellow former jockey Graham Gibbons over the Kempton fall in 2016 that left Tylicki paralysed.
In a 26-page judgement that followed a five-day hearing this month, Judge Karen Walden-Smith ruled that Gibbons acted "in reckless disregard for the safety of Mr Tylicki" when he steered Madame Butterfly towards the inside rail while rounding a bend half a mile from the finish, with the result that Tylicki's mount Nellie Deen ran out of room and clipped the leader's heels.
On behalf of Gibbons, it had been argued that he had been exonerated by a stewards' inquiry on the day and that there had been insufficient room for Tylicki to make a move up his inside. But the judge rejected those contentions, relying instead on the evidence of Jim Crowley and Pat Cosgrave, who also rode in the race, and on an expert report by Ryan Moore, who was in Australia at the time of the race.
She identified a four-second period when Gibbons rode with what she called reckless disregard when he knew, or ought to have known, that his rival jockey was on his inside within half a length of his own mount. She ruled that Gibbons "did more than merely control Madame Butterfly to enable her to keep a racing line around a bend".
The judge said: "He exerted real pressure on the right-hand rein of Madame Butterfly in order to bring her across Nellie Deen's racing line and did not stop bringing her in close to the rail, even after the first collision. Even if, which I do not accept is credible, Mr Gibbons was unaware of the presence of Nellie Deen until he heard the shout of 'Gibbo' from Mr Tylicki, he certainly knew of the presence of Mr Tylicki and Nellie Deen at that time and he does nothing to pull Madame Butterfly off the rail in order to give Mr Tylicki a chance."
The judge added that Gibbons' actions "were not mere lapses or errors of judgement. This was a course of action that carried over a number of seconds and, while that might, in some circumstances, be considered a short period of time, in the heat of a horse race where jockeys are required to make split-second decisions . . . this was a sufficient period of time for a skilled jockey to make decisions.
"Of course, it is not possible to say for certain that Mr Gibbons was in fact aware of Mr Tylicki on Nellie Deen to his inside, but in my judgment it is more likely than not that he did know he was there. Jockeys need to have an awareness of where the other horses are and, while a rider at the front cannot be expected to know what is going on with all the horses behind, a rider should be aware of what is happening alongside."
Moore evidently made a most favourable impression on the judge, who described him as "an extremely straightforward witness who was using his expertise in order to assist the court", and also "a very careful witness" who "made concessions where appropriate". She added that Moore, Cosgrave and Crowley were "firm, clear and totally believable", but criticised Gibbons for failing to be clear in his initial witness statement about the fact he had not ridden in races since 2016 or to explain why.
The judge said it was "very surprising" that the stewards did not choose to adjourn the inquiry on the day, given that only two jockeys were available to speak to them, while Crowley, Tylicki and others were not. Those circumstances meant she was able to reach a different conclusion, having heard much more evidence than the stewards, who found the interference to be accidental. However, she felt it would be "harsh" to criticise the stewards severely for the way they acted in difficult circumstances.
The sum of money which will have to be paid in compensation by Gibbons' insurers has not been determined by the judgement as the judge was asked only to address the basic question of liability. The value of the claim remains a private matter between the two sides. The original claim document mentioned a figure of £6 million.
In a statement issued through his lawyers, Stewart-Moore solicitors, Tylicki expressed his delight at the decision, saying: "Today's result has finally provided me with closure and I look forward to putting this all behind me and moving on with my life.
"I hope, though, that this judgement acts as a reminder that competing in a dangerous sport like horseracing is no justification for competing with a reckless disregard for the safety of your fellow competitors."
The judgement is sure to be much scrutinised in the coming days, being the first occasion in which a jockey has made a successful claim for damages against another jockey for a mid-race incident. On behalf of the PJA, Dale Gibson said: "Our concerns at this moment are with our two former members who we have great sympathy for, particularly at this time. We will need to carefully read the full judgement before making any further comment."
A BHA spokesman said: "We will consider the High Court judgement in detail and carefully assess what implications it may hold for British racing, in discussion with industry stakeholders. The full transcript of the hearing will also allow us to consider any of the other relevant matters which were raised over the course of the hearing."
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