Olympic hopefuls head to Badminton

A stellar cast of riders have entered this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (May 3-7), many still hoping to catch the eye of their nation’s selectors in time for the Olympics.

One rider who should have his Olympic slot wrapped up is New Zealander Mark Todd, who returns to the scene of last year’s triumph, although his winning horse, NZB Land Vision is being preserved for London 2012.

Instead, the 56-year-old maestro, who first won Badminton 32 years ago plus back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988, will ride NZB Grass Valley, back in form after a year off, and Major Milestone.

Another rider whose team place seems secure is British number one William Fox-Pitt. A record six-times winner of Burghley, he will be looking for a second Badminton victory to add to his triumph back in 2004. He has the choice of five horses, including his most recent Burghley winner, Parklane Hawk.

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Fox-Pitt’s likely Olympic team mates, Mary King, Nicola Wilson and Piggy French, all have rides, and Badminton will be particularly crucial for Kristina Cook, Pippa Funnell and Laura Collett, who will be vying for the fifth slot. Zara Phillips, too, has an outside chance on High Kingdom, the horse tipped to propel her back into the big time.

The nation everyone fears is Germany, and all eyes will be on their Michael Jung, a genius horseman who already holds the world and European titles, but who has only once competed in front of a British crowd. He has stated that Badminton, the world’s oldest and most important horse trials, is a major ambition, and he has obvious credentials to be Badminton’s first German winner in its 63-year history.

Twelve nations will be represented: Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Spain and USA.

To book tickets, telephone 01454 218375 or visit www.badminton-horse.co.uk.

* Photograph by Sffubs