‘I would never give up’ – Mickaelle Michel vows to pursue her Japanese dream despite setback

Horse Racing Mickaelle Michel
Mickaelle Michel: forced to cancel trip to Japan because of Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: Giullia Fillipini

By Jon Lees

France: Mickaelle Michel is not giving up on her dream to ride full-time in Japan after pandemic restrictions left her unable to enter the country to take up her short-term licence.

Michel, 25, had been granted a two-month licence to ride on the Japan Racing Association circuit from this month but has had to abandon her plans as a declaration of emergency is in place and no overseas travellers are allowed into the country.

The cancellation of her visit will make it harder for her to secure another temporary JRA licence because the criteria under which she qualified for it applied only up to the end of 2020.

The hugely popular jockey broke the news to her 32.7k followers on Twitter. “Bad news, I cannot go to Japan at the moment, it was cancelled because of the Covid,” she said. “I am very disappointed, it’s not an easy time but I would never give up.”

Michel was to be sponsored by the powerful Shadai Farm on her return to Japan. She rode 30 winners there last year, setting a new record for most wins by an overseas jockey on a short-term licence on the second-tier National Association of Racing circuit.

She could now try to return to the NAR once travel restrictions have been lifted, before sitting the JRA jockeys’ exam later in the year, according to her partner and manager Frederic Spanu.

“We are very disappointed,” said Spanu. “The JRA licence was a goal for us this winter, but we will fight and not give up and maybe return to Japan in spring in the NAR.

“And with regard to the JRA licence, Mickaelle will take her exam next September so that she will stay there for her entire career. This is her ultimate goal.”

With Japan off the immediate agenda Michel had been looking forward to riding at the Saudi Cup where German horse Walderbe, on whom she recorded two Group wins last year, was to run, but that trip too has now been shelved.

Michel, who has ridden two winners in France so far this year, has realigned her sights on riding Walderbe on Dubai World Cup night in March.

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