12/14/2007 1:00AM

Darley loses license in Japan

EmailSheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley operation has had to forfeit its new Japan Racing Association license just four months after receiving it, following the retirement of Darley Japan's chairman, Dr. Riki Takahashi.

Japan's complex ownership regulations are highly protective of the country's native agricultural industry, and Darley had been working toward its JRA license since hiring Takahashi in 1991. A license from that organization allows horses to compete at Japan's major tracks. Before the association approved Darley's license in August, Darley could campaign runners at smaller, less prestigious tracks under the jurisdiction of the National Association Racing.

Maktoum's purchase this summer of Japanese star Admire Moon, who recently won the Japan Cup, came soon after the organization received its JRA license and was a signal of the sheikh's intent to expand Darley Japan into a leading stud farm.

Takahashi's sudden retirement appears likely to send Darley back onto the National Association circuit while it reapplies for the license in a complicated process that could take several years to navigate. But Maktoum's bloodstock adviser, John Ferguson, told the Racing Post that the setback did not change Maktoum's plans to expand its Japanese program.

"Basically, the JRA have a set of rules which we completely understand," Ferguson said. "We have been in discussion with them, and they have been very helpful."

Darley has given no explanation for Takahashi's abrupt departure on the eve of Darley Japan's expansion.

Ferguson told Racing Post only that "Riki Takahashi has retired from his position at Darley Japan, and we are very grateful for all he has done over the years."