Singer v The Jockey Club

Reference: 28/06/1990

Court: Chancery Division

Judge: Scott J

Date of judgment: 28 Jun 1990

Summary: Sports - horseracing - dope testing - disqualification - disciplinary tribunal - contract - owner claiming horse wrongly disqualified - damages

Appearances: James Price QC (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Pitman McCoy for the Plaintiff; Charles Russell for the Defendant

Facts

In the 1981 Champion Stakes the Aga Khan’s horse Vayrann finished first and the plaintiff’s horse finished second. A dope test on Vayrann found a metabolite of nandrolone, a prohibited drug under the Rules of Racing. A disciplinary enquiry held however that there had been no breach of the rules and did not disqualify Vayrann. The plaintiff claimed that the committee had misinterpreted the rules and claimed damages for breach of contract in the amount of the difference between the prize money for 1st and 2nd place. The Jockey Club disputed the plaintiff’s interpretation of the Rules, and contended that if there was a contract there had been no breach and/or no damage.

Issue

(1) What was the true construction of the first limb of the Rule in question (Rule 180(2))? (2) Had the committee wrongly failed to consider the second limb of the Rule? (3) What were the contractual obligations of the Jockey Club towards an owner in respect of a decision of the disciplinary committee?

Held

Dismissing the claim:- (1) The plaintiff’s construction of the first limb of the Rule was rejected. The disciplinary committee had not misdirected itself. (2) Although there was substance in the plaintiff’s complaint that the committee should have considered the second part of Rule 180(2), it was not shown that this would have altered the outcome. (3) The plaintiff had advanced cogent arguments to the effect that a contract existed between the plaintiff and the Jockey Club, but the court was not persuaded that the terms of such a contract placed the Jockey Club under a contractual duty to every owner, trainer and jockey that each and every rule would be correctly applied according to its true construction. The obligation was to hold a fair and proper enquiry and to take reasonable steps to see that the Rules were applied. That duty was discharged. If there was a contract, there was no breach.

Comment

The important feature of this case is the ruling on the nature of the terms to be implied into the contract between owner and regulator. The court rejected the notion that the regulator impliedly guaranteed the correctness of decisions of its disciplinary body: “No judge would ever guarantee that he had reached the right result and I do not see why it should be implied that the Jockey Club had contractually bound itself that its disciplinary committee would do so.”