Freddy Tylicki has succeeded in his claim against Graham Gibbons over the 2016 fall at Kempton that paralysed him, the High Court ruled on Tuesday. Judge Karen Walden-Smith issued her judgement at 2pm, declaring: “The actions of Mr Gibbons were . . . undertaken in reckless disregard for the safety of Mr Tylicki.”
Tylicki said he was “delighted” by the news in a statement issued through Stewart-Moore solicitors. “It has taken five years for me and my legal team to overcome the injustice of the stewards’ inquiry which took place at Kempton immediately after the race,” the former jockey said.
“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 sum of money which must now be paid in compensation has yet to be determined.
The judge, who presided over five days of evidence and argument early this month, has identified a four-second period when Gibbons rode with what she calls 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 has ruled that Gibbons “did more than merely control Madame Butterfly to enable her to keep a racing line around a bend”.
“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 adds that Gibbons’s 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”.
The judgement is sure to be much scrutinised in the coming days, being the first occasion on which a jockey has made a successful claim for damages against another jockey for a midrace incident. In particular, there will be questions about the future of the indemnity insurance available to jockeys and what it might mean for the sport if such insurance were to become unavailable.
With that in mind, the sport’s senior figures will take particular note of the judge’s concluding remarks: “I stress that the threshold for liability of negligence is a high one and has been determined as made out in this case, on its own particular facts. The finding does not set a precedent, either within horseracing or in sport generally.”