As the anticipation continues to build in the run up to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2010, members of the press got their first look at Hugh Thomas’s cross-country course earlier today.

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Badminton cross-country course summary

Riders start over the inviting MITSUBISHI STARTER, (1) the flower bed in the main arena, then head left out of the gate this year to HIGHAM’S BRUSH, (2), named in honour of Badminton’s retiring stud groom, Brian Higham and onto the charity fence, the WORLD HORSE WELFARE QUARRY (3, 4, 5, 6). This is the first real test on the course where the direct route involves turns in and out of the pit, over massive logs both at the bottom and top of steep inclines.

There is a good gallop to the IRISH SPORT HORSE STUDBOOK HUNTSMANS CLOSE (7, 8, 9, 10). Riders leap a big spread in open country followed very quickly by an upright gate. Then it is left over the now familiar brush corner and a sweep round to a relatively narrow log on an angle.

Next is a photographer’s favourite, the WADWORTH BARRELS (11) with Badminton House as a backdrop and on to the crowd pulling LAKE (12). All riders have to jump the Mitsubishi Pickups and the brave will turn sharp left and splash into the water over the narrow willow ‘wave’, aim for a narrow ‘skinny’ brush in the water and out over a bullfinch.

The MARLEY ETERNIT BARN TABLE (13) is a relative let up, but will need respect and then comes another serious test, the COUNTRYSIDE COMPLEX (14). This starts with a ‘barrel top’ roundel, into the Sunken Road, up, out and over a second and third roundel on the turn.

Tackling the double of open corners at the HS1 FARMYARD (15) will require spot on steering unless competitors wish to waste a lot of time taking the scenic route, which involves the familiar Mike Weaver’s Haycart.

Now down to the series of fences that cross the Vicarage Ditch. The direct route at the COLT POND (16) consists of two hedges on a tight angle, similar to the old Luckington Lane crossing, but this time instead of a lane there is a water splash to negotiate.

Recent Badminton competitors have got the hang of the very narrow HSBC HEXAGON HEDGE, (17) but first-timers may blanche a bit before heading to the OUTLANDER BANK (18), where familiarity should not breed contempt. A right handed loop back over the ditch takes in a good old fashioned oxer at THE ASX CROSSOVER (19).

The SHOGUN HOLLOW (20) is an upright post and rail with drop into the hollow, up, out and over a boxed corner followed by a chance to put the foot down if there is enough gas in the tank and take a flyer at the SHOOTING BUTT (21).

After that spin riders will need to come back to show jumping mode if they want to make a success of the HSBC FEI CLASSICS CORRAL (22) an upright, an oxer and another upright on a tight right turn.

The JOHN WHITAKER INTERNATIONAL TRUNKS (23) make use of a vast fallen tree, but there are still some challenges ahead. The ALTERIAN STAIRCASE (24) is used going up, this way round the course, and there is a narrow obstacle waiting at the top.

There isn’t much difference between the choice of routes at the LANCER VILLAGE (25, 26), a small housing estate on varying terrain, and there’s a final chance to kick on over the KEEPER’S BRUSH (27) before the OWL HOLE (28), now attractively situated in a copse.

THE ROLEX CROSSING (29, 30), has caught out one or two of the very best in the past, but once cleared it’s back into the arena and the welcome sight of the MITSUBISHI GARDEN (31) and the roar of the delighted crowd as riders pass through the finish.

Don’t miss H&H’s Badminton preview special issue, on sale 22 April, to find out Pippa Funnell’s thoughts on this year’s course, with an accompanying online video of her walking some of the more influential fences.