A host of Athens potentials will be converging on the North of England later this week for the Chatsworth SsangYong International Horse Trials and the FEI World Cup qualifier.

Both winners of the two most recent four star competitions at Badminton and Kentucky will be making an appearance at the first European leg of the 2004 World Cup series of three-star CICs.

William Fox-Pitt will be riding last year’s Chatsworth winner, Stunning (pictured) , who was unbeaten in all but one of his outings last season, but is something of a veteran at 18-years-old. World number one Kimberley Severson, who comes here on the back of success at Lexington will be riding He’s Got Rhythm.

Other British Olympic potential comes in the shape of Pippa Funnell, who will be keen to dispel any post-Badminton anxieties in her first outing since her double fall. She brings Primmore’s Pride, who was the mainstay of Pippa’s grand slam victory last year, and Walk On Star. Leslie Law rides the younger of his team of greys, Shear L’eau, and Mary King rides King Solomon III.

It is not just the British hopefuls who will be out in force. New Zealander Blyth Tait has his first international outing of the season on Ready Teddy, with whom he took home Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympics. Compatriot Andrew Nicholson rides Fenicio and will be hoping to improve on his Badminton score, when he was narrowly pipped to the post on Lord Killinghurst.

Matt Ryan and Andrew Hoy form the core of the Australian challenge. Andrew brings his Olympic prospect Master Monarch, while Bettina Hoy represents Germany on Ringwood Cockatoo.

The horse trials at Chatsworth first took place in the 1980s, and the event was reinstated in 1999. Cross-country is run on both days in the stunning parkland on the banks of the river Derwent, and a unique feature is the sculpted cross-country fences dotted around the course.

In recent years, a leading artist has been commissioned by the Marquess of Hartington to create an addition to the cross-country course each year. They become not only a permanent feature of the track, but also an intriguing element of the park landscape, although each artist has stressed the problems posed by the need to avoid deflecting the rider’s attention as he approaches the fence.

Allen Jones, who created The Two Graces, explains: “I imagine that between the action of jumping horses and riders, a spectator might have some time for contemplation and with that in mind the sculpture viewed from one side will be seen to represent two reclining figures.

“However, no such distraction has been allowed on the other side for competitors, who will be presented with a seemingly straightforward hurdle of stacked timbers at regulation height”

The late Duke of Devonshire, who died aged 84 earlier this month, will be sorely missed at the event, but it was his wish that the horse trials should continue. As well as hosting the horse trials, and an annual country fair on his estate, he said that he would allow hunting to continue on his land even if it were banned.