JRA Turns Down Sheikh Mohammed's Request for Owner's License

Sheikh Mohammed owns a rapidly growing breeding operation in Japan, but he can't get an owner's license from the Japan Racing Association (JRA) even though he has tried for years. The latest turndown, which came recently, has been a hot topic this week during the Japan Racing Horse Association's select yearling and foal sales at the Northern Horse Park.

"The boss said, 'Just keep going to show them; we have done many things here to support the industry; there is no reason to stop'," said Dr. Riki Takahashi, who oversees Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Japan venture, on Tuesday. Takahashi confirmed reports that the JRA said "financial" reasons were why it denied Sheikh Mohammed's request for a license. Takahashi called the explanation "ridiculous."

Darley Japan consigned both yearlings and foals to this year's JRHA sales. During the first session of the foal auction Tuesday, Darley purchased a French Deputy -- Blue Avenue colt for 300,000,000 yen ($2,608,695) and a Swept Overboard -- Must Be Loved colt for 140,000,000 yen ($1,217,391).

Irishman Harry Sweeney, who owns Paca Paca Farm and is a JRA license holder, disagreed with the JRA's decision concerning Sheikh Mohammed.

"I'm surprised with the result, and I'm disappointed," he said. "I think we need another big player in this industry. I think it would be better for everybody. There is not a lot of competition here. There is only one show (the Yoshida family's multi-farm operation). Darley are big contributors to the industry in every country they operate, and personally, I think they will do the same for Japan. Ultimately, if they have a license in the future, Northern Farm, Shadai Farm, Oiwake Farm, Paca Paca Farm, and numerous other farms will be better off."