07/11/2007 12:00AM

Sheikh nears Japanese license

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Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley organization appears poised to receive a racing license from the Japan Racing Association, which is famously reluctant to permit foreigners racing strings.

Media reports on Wednesday from the Japan Racing Horse Association yearling and foal sale, where Darley's Japanese farm was a consignor, suggested that the license would be granted. And Darley Japan's president, Ollie Tait, "confirmed that the JRA has indicated that that license is forthcoming," probably by the end of July, according to a report posted on the Dubai Racing Club website.

John Ferguson, Maktoum's chief representative, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The Japan Racing Association governs Japan's major racing circuit, but it is not the sole source of Japanese racing licenses. Other, smaller racetracks are locally governed. Maktoum, a breeder in the country for more than a decade, previously received a license to race at tracks operated by the National Association of Racing and has been campaigning a string of horses at those locales since 2003. On Wednesday, Darley Japan Racing's Furioso won the Japan Dirt Derby at the NAR's Ohi course just hours after Darley's John Donne finished third in another race at the same track.

Darley, selling under the name of Darley Japan K. K., has consigned horses to the Japan Racing Horse Association auction before. The Darley consigment's most successful horses, in terms of price, were a Dubai Destination-Velvet Queen filly who brought $412,955 at the yearling session and a pair of colts, one by Pivotal out of Fortune and one by Motivator out of Diagonale, who fetched $615,384 at the foal sessions