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The Law: Winning Loser

2 minute read

As the horses pounded down the homestretch, Parisian Maurice Luca was certain that he had picked a winning tierce.* France’s noted jockey, Roger Poincelet, had whipped Scallywag−one of Luca’s betting choices−into third place, and there was barely a furlong left to go. Suddenly Poincelet eased up, and so did the horse. Scallywag finished out of the money. Track stewards suspended Poincelet for his disappointing efforts, but Luca had his own disciplinary ideas. He sued the jockey for $20,000, the amount he stood to collect had Scallywag placed at least third.

In an unprecedented decision that has the French racing industry in an angry uproar, Paris’ Seventh Chamber of the Court of Appeals awarded $3,000 damages to Luca. Said the court: “The jockey must not, before arriving at the finish post, cease to urge his horse to fight for first, second or third place.” Jockeys now fear that they may have to spend as much time in court as on the race track, fending off the suits of disgruntled bettors. Even race-track stodpers, who look for discarded ticket stubs, were heard to complain about the decision. If it holds up, racing fans will hang on to their stubs until the courts decide if losing jockeys, already faulted by track officials, have failed in their duties.

* A forecast bet in which the bettor must pick the first three horses in a race.

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