Dubai World Cup Officials Douse Rumors

Dubai World Cup officials were quick to douse the fire of rumors Thursday that foot-and-mouth disease had broken out in the Emirates, threatening the running of the March 24 event.

Connections of Australasian champion Sunline, already in Dubai, became concerned that their mare might not be able to return to New Zealand after the world's richest day of racing.

"They found suspected cases in eight cattle in an import slaughterhouse in Al Ain, another emirate which is 90 minutes drive from the horses' quarantine center," said Martin Talty, Emirates Racing Association media officer.

"Sunline's trainer, Trevor McKee, will assess the situation and I'm sure he'll find everything fine with our state-of-the-art quarantine center," Talty said.

Foot-and-mouth cases have reached nearly 200 in Britain with an initial case reported in France Wednesday. While Northern Ireland has been affected, the virus has not crossed the border into the Republic and there have been very few problems reported getting European runners to Dubai.

"The majority of horses are already there with a few stragglers left to depart," said James Macewan, in charge of Dubai World Cup horse transportation worldwide. "There have been a few problems to overcome because there are various departments involved, and sometimes they don't all get the right facts, but essentially nothing has changed from previous years. French customs officer at Charles de Gaulle (airport) wouldn't let one of the French horses leave, for example, but we got MAFF (Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) involved and that was sorted out. It's just little things like that."

Ireland has been stringent in its measures to keep foot-and-mouth at bay and is the only European country to have shut down racing completely. "The Irish horses for the meeting left in January and, for the moment, I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to return," said Macewan. "Ireland is accepting horses from other parts of the world."