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Bill Murray film's use of famed US horse racing phrase draws lawsuit

  • Published at 09:38 pm March 21st, 2019
FILE PHOTO: Cast member Bill Murray arrives for the premiere of the film St.Vincent in New York on October 6,-2014 Reuters

The lawsuit does not name Murray as a defendant

US horse racing announcer Dave Johnson, who called Triple Crown races for ABC television for two decades, on Wednesday sued the makers of Bill Murray’s 2014 film “St. Vincent” for using his signature phrase “and down the stretch they come” without permission.

Johnson, 77, a Manhattan resident, accused the film’s distributor Weinstein Co, the producers Chernin Entertainment and Crescendo Productions and other defendants of infringing his 2012 trademark in the phrase, one of the most recognizable in American sports.

The lawsuit does not name Murray as a defendant.

Murray’s character Vincent MacKenna, a grumpy retiree who drank and gambled, used the phrase “in the context of a race and in a clear attempt to imitate” Johnson, the complaint said.

Johnson said this would likely confuse the public, tarnishing his rights to a phrase “inextricably linked” with him.

“I’ve spent my whole life calling races, and that’s something I wanted to protect,” Johnson said in a phone interview from New Orleans, where he is attending Saturday’s Louisiana Derby. “It’s obviously mine. That’s my phrase.”

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court seeks unspecified damages, which Johnson said he would donate to charities associated with horse racing, including for disabled jockeys.