Nearly four months to the day after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Darley Japan operation earned a rare license to compete on the exclusive Japan Racing Association circuit, the privilege was lost at the end of November.
Now Darley Japan, which captured its first prestigious JRA race when Admire Moon won the Nov. 25 Japan Cup (Jpn-I), faces beginning the tedious licensing process from scratch in what appears to be a substantial setback to what had been ambitious plans.
The license was lost when Dr. Riki Takahashi, who served as chairman of the overall Darley Japan enterprise and who had worked for more than 15 years establishing business in the Asian nation for Sheikh Mohammed, left the organization Nov. 27. Under complex JRA licensing rules and laws in Japan aimed at precluding significant foreign ownership and investment, Darley Japan gained the ability to receive the license and own several Thoroughbred nurseries through Takahashi, a Japanese native.
Hanako Sonobe, the newly designated spokesperson for Darley Japan, said the week of Dec. 9 that Takahashi returned the license to the JRA when he retired.
“A lot of things are up in the air,” Sonobe said, noting Darley Japan is going to review the options of how it can acquire another JRA license. Darley’s farms on the Japanese island of Hokkaido will continue to operate, she said.
Though he confirmed he is no longer with Darley Japan, Takahashi declined detailed comment on why he left the organization when it appeared poised to achieve so much of what he had worked for over the years.
Oliver Tait, who oversees Darley Japan and Darley Australia, said that “it was an amicable split; Dr. Takahashi decided to retire” before referring other questions to Sonobe, a Japanese woman who is a 2005 graduate of the Darley Flying Start program.
Under Takahashi’s management, Darley Japan purchased and upgraded about a half-dozen farm properties, established a stallion complex, and raced Sea Chariot, champion juvenile of 2004 on the National Association of Racing circuit. Sonobe said Darley Japan will continue to race at the NAR level, which offers significantly lower purses and less prestige than the JRA, and currently has 33 horses in training with several trainers.
Darley Japan will stand Admire Moon—who also won this year’s Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) and the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-I) while compiling a career record of 10 wins in 17 starts with earnings of $10,219,948—at its Japanese stud farm along with fellow Japan Cup winner Alkaased, Fantastic Light, Rule of Law, and Diktat.
Darley also stands Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Moon Ballad and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Marienbard at other studs in Japan.