As a hazy, early morning sun gazed down on Nad Al Sheba racecourse Wednesday, it was hard to believe that just a few miles away the U.S. consulate in Dubai had been closed due to a terror alert.
Although it was reported that American civilians were not in danger, the office's closure, coupled with closing of the main Embassy in nearby Abu Dhabi, provided a reminder of the uncertain state of the world that was in eerie contrast to the good vibes of Dubai.
Last year's Dubai World Cup had been haunted by the outbreak of war in Iraq and the meeting took place against an uncharacteristically somber backdrop.
Despite Wednesday's terror warnings, dismissed in the local Gulf newspaper as a result of a "dubious tip-off" but taken more seriously elsewhere, this year's racing showpiece has had an upbeat build-up, as was evident by the busy buzz of the "Breakfast With The Stars" at the racetrack.
There, Richard Mandella took time out from Pleasantly Perfect's World Cup preparation, to admit he had been blithely unaware of the consulate closure.
"Somebody told me that they had heard about in Los Angeles and called me up, worrying about me. That was the first I knew of it," he said. "We didn't come last year, but I'm sure that was a more nervous occasion than this year. I'm sure everybody was very conscious of what was going on up the coast there. This year I'm not sure too many people are worried. It looks as if everybody is having a big party."
Gary Stevens also missed out last year and confessed that he had "my tensions getting on the plane to come this year."
But after two days in Dubai all was well with the jockey, who rides Domestic Dispute in Saturday's $6 million showdown. "Now that I am here I am so relaxed," he said. "I have had a lot of success here and one of the reasons for that is I am very comfortable in my surroundings. That hasn't changed at all. I am very, very comfortable right now. Obviously there were worries before coming out, but I think it is like anyone: I don't care what race you are, what country you are from, if you let it worry you that's what they (terrorists) want. I mind my own business; I try and treat people as I want to be treated and I haven't encountered any problems. As we stand here you wouldn't imagine there were any problems at all."
And Leandro Moro, in Dubai for the second year running, this time to oversee the World Cup preparation of the Doug O'Neill-trained Fleetstreet Dancer, said: "It's a huge relief (this year). This is a very secure country. I didn't have the nervousness that people usually have."
"We haven't heard anything about the close of the consulate and it is right outside our hotel. The mood is no different because of what happened."