Queen of cups loses by a length
CUPS queen Sheila Laxon is facing disaster after a bitter Supreme Court row ignited by her racehorse owners.
A judge has ruled against Laxon and her training partner John Symons after a long and expensive legal action brought by the owners.
Laxon, who trained the mighty Ethereal to the Melbourne and Caulfield cups of 2001, last night said she was “shattered” by the outcome.
She and Symons were heavily criticised by Judge John Digby in a 195-page judgment.
The Courier-Mail has been told Laxon and Symons could face a $1 million bill by the time legal costs are awarded.
The owners, Frank and Karen Butler and Glenn Fielding, had been friends of Symons and Laxon but wound up in an acrimonious challenge over horse purchases.
A total of 51 horses were at the centre of the action brought against Symons and Laxon and their company JSL.
“The plaintiffs’ central contention is that Mr Symons and Ms Laxon sold to them partial interests in racehorses in circumstances where the JSL parties failed to ensure that the plaintiffs would take good title to the horses,” Justice Digby said.
They alleged this came about when Laxon and Symons did not find the additional investors to pay the Magic Millions and Inglis auction houses so vendors could be paid.
This prevented the horses from being trialled or raced.
Laxon and Symons were also accused of altering registration papers lodged with Racing Victoria for four horses and failing to prepare horses for the 2009 Ready to Run sales, as promised.
The Butlers and Mr Fielding withheld payments to JSL once the dispute began.
That amount, a total of just over $350,000, was agreed by both parties and will come out of the compensation awarded to the plaintiffs.
Mr Fielding’s barrister Damien Sheales last night said: “We are obviously pleased with the outcome. I really can’t see repercussions for the wider racing industry.
“The court has made damning findings about the conduct of two participants in the industry. As all cases do, this was a case that turned on its own facts.”
Justice Digby said he was satisfied that several instances “severely impugn” Ms Laxon’s credibility and records supplied by her were “untruthful, inaccurate and unreliable”.
Laxon, who has moved back to New Zealand, said she was “flabbergasted” at the finding and her legal team was reviewing the decision.
“I’m shattered,’’ she said.
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