Freddy Tylicki wins High Court claim against Graham Gibbons

Tue 21 Dec 2021

Freddy Tylicki has won his High Court claim against Graham Gibbons for negligent riding which resulted in a fall that left him with life-changing injuries.

Tylicki, 35, was trampled after falling from his mount, Nellie Deen, during the 3.20pm race at Kempton Park in Surrey on October 31 2016.

Left partially paralysed and now a wheelchair user, Tylicki sued fellow Flat rider Gibbons, 39, in a bid to hold him liable over the incident in the one-mile fillies’ maiden.

His lawyers argued that Gibbons, who denied riding negligently, manoeuvred his horse Madame Butterfly into the path of Tylicki’s mount, which was running into a gap between his horse and the edge of the track as they turned on to the home straight.

“Today’s result has finally provided me with closure," says Freddy Tylicki (Pic: PA)
“Today’s result has finally provided me with closure," says Freddy Tylicki (Pic: PA)

In a judgment on Tuesday, Judge Karen Walden-Smith found in Tylicki’s favour, ruling that Mr Gibbons “had a reckless disregard for Mr Tylicki’s safety”.

The judge ruled that it was more likely than not that Mr Gibbons was aware of Mr Tylicki’s presence before the fall.

She continued: “If Mr Gibbons was not aware of Nellie Deen’s presence he clearly should have been.

“He was considered to be a highly skilled and talented jockey, and a jockey, particularly riding at this very high level, both needs to be, and is, able to assess and reassess the constantly changing racing conditions, which includes the positioning of other horses that are nearby, in order to be able to adjust their own riding and tactics.”

During a five-day hearing last month, the High Court in London heard evidence from both jockeys.

Tylicki told the court that he shouted out “Gibbo” moments before he fell.

He said: “It was a shout for survival, to be honest, because I knew what was going to happen next, but there was no response.”

Gibbons denied trying to block Tylicki’s progress.

“When Freddy shouted at me I looked over my right shoulder immediately and I was surprised and shocked that there was a horse there,” he said.

Judge Walden-Smith said she had to decide whether the fall was “a very unfortunate accident with tragic consequences” or whether Mr Gibbons was liable for his fellow jockey’s injuries.

Finding Gibbons liable, she ruled: “In my judgment, during this spell of riding… Mr Gibbons had a reckless disregard for Mr Tylicki’s safety.

“Mr Gibbons knew, or at the very least ought to have known, that Mr Tylicki was inside on the rail and had moved up to within a half-length of Madame Butterfly.

“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.”

Judge Walden-Smith said Mr Gibbons’ actions “were not mere lapses or errors of judgment” and were “a course of action that carried over a number of seconds”.

She continued: “While that might, in some circumstances, be considered a short period of time… this was a sufficient period of time for a skilled jockey to make decisions.”

The judge concluded that her findings only related to this case and did not set a precedent.

In a statement after the judgment, Tylicki said he was “delighted”.

He 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 judgment 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.”

Responding to the judgment, the British Horseracing Authority said in a statement: "The BHA will consider today's 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."

Dale Gibson, interim chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, said: “Our concerns at this moment are with two former members who we have great sympathy for, particularly at this time. We will carefully read the full judgment before making any further comment.”

Who is Freddy Tylicki?

German-born Tylicki, 35, was a successful Flat jockey. Son of three-time German champion jockey, Polish-born Andrzej Tylicki, he was champion apprentice in 2009 when he won the Lester award for apprentice jockey of the year. He rode more than 500 winners in his career, including two Group One victories on the James Fanshawe-trained Speedy Boarding, in the Prix Jean Romanet and the Prix de l’Opera, in 2016 before suffering the fall that ultimately ended his career. He now has a career as a pundit, having joined the Sky Sports Racing team in January 2019. In the summer he became part of ownership group the RacecourseClub’s executive team.

Who is Graham Gibbons?

Gibbons, 39, was born in Galway and moved to the UK after a successful time in pony racing, joining Reg Hollinshead’s apprentice academy. His first Group-race winner came on Always Hopeful in the 2005 Richmond Stakes. He rode over a 1050 domestic winners in a career from 2000 to 2016 with his best total of 98 coming in 2013. He has not ridden since December 2016, handing in his licence pending a disciplinary hearing into an allegation he had attempted to switch urine samples with a fellow rider at a meeting at Kempton Park. Gibbons’ sample was found to include a metabolite of cocaine, and he was banned for a total of two and a half years by the British Horseracing Authority.

What happened at Kempton?

Tylicki sustained serious injuries when his mount Nellie Deen, trained by David Elsworth, stumbled and fell at about halfway in a maiden fillies’ stakes over a mile at Kempton on October 31, 2016. Four horses came down in the pile-up. The race was won by Madame Butterfly, ridden by Gibbons. The stewards looked into the incident and found Tylicki’s fall was caused by an accidental clipping of heels. Tylicki suffered a T7 paralysis, meaning he has movement in the upper half of his upper body but not the lower. He spent 15 days in intensive care in St George’s Hospital in Tooting before being moved to a general spinal ward in mid-November. The following month, Tylicki moved on to the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre in Stanmore. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

What happened next?

Tylicki sued Gibbons and took his case to the High Court. Both Tylicki and Gibbons gave evidence as did jockeys Jim Crowley and Pat Cosgrave who both rode in the race in question. Ryan Moore and Jim Crowley also gave evidence. Judge Karen Walden-Smith found in Tylicki’s favour, ruling that Gibbons “had a reckless disregard for Mr Tylicki’s safety”. The sum of money that has to be paid in compensation has yet to be decided.

What are the implications for racing and jockeys?

Though the judge stressed the judgment relates only to this case and does not set a precedent, it will send shock waves through the racing industry. It is the first time a jockey has made a successful claim for damages against another jockey for an incident of this nature. There are likely to be significant questions about the future of indemnity insurance available to jockeys and what it might mean for the sport if such insurance were to become unavailable, while there will be a renewed focus on stewarding. The BHA said it would study the full transcript and “carefully assess what implications it may hold for British racing, in discussion with industry stakeholders”. The Professional Jockeys Association offered a similar response.

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