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Jockey’s Attempt to Breach Covenant Falls at Second Fence

22nd December, 2011

A covenant can either represent a commitment to do something or a commitment not to do something. In either case, the party faced with a breach of the covenant has a range of options available to them for obtaining a legal remedy, one of which is to obtain a court injunction to prevent the breach.

In a recent case, a jockey who had an agreement with a racehorse owner that he would not agree to ride another owner’s horse in a race in which he had already been booked to ride one of the owner’s horses was faced with an injunction to prevent a breach of contract.

The jockey was booked to ride one of the owner’s horses in the Derby. Five days before the race, however, he sent a text message to the owner indicating that he would not after all be riding the horse in that race. He had in fact agreed to ride another horse. The owner sought an injunction to prevent him breaking the restrictive covenant.

The lower court refused to prevent the jockey from riding the horse of his choice, despite the fact that it left the owner seeking a replacement jockey at the last minute. The decision was made largely on public interest grounds, the judge believing that damages would be sufficient compensation for the racehorse owner. The owner appealed and the Court of Appeal overturned the decision and granted the injunction. Because of the clear breach of the covenant, it was necessary in law for the jockey to prove that special circumstances existed to justify not enforcing the covenant. The Court concluded that in this case there were no special circumstances that would justify the withholding of the requested injunction.

The circumstances in this case were clearly unusual. It involved a well-known sportsman and one of the classic Flat races. However, it clearly demonstrates the principle that the use of a well-worded restraint of trade clause and its timely application can be an effective protection.

As it happens, neither horse won!

For advice on all contractual matters, contact Nick Clarke in the Commercial Team.

 

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