The first four-star international event ever to be held in mainland Europe gets underway today at Luhmuhlen in Germany. The competition is also the first CCI**** to run totally without the steeplechase and roads and tracks phases, after Lexington offered riders both long and short format sections earlier in the year.

Luhmuhlen CCI**** will provide British riders with a final opportunity to impress the selectors and gain one of the four remaining places in the FEI Blenheim Petplan European Championships in September.

Luhmuhlen is located south of Hamburg, on the edge of the famous Luneberger Heath Wildlife Park, and presents competitors with a challenging cross-country phase, run largely through established woodland. Riders will have an optimum time of 11min 30sec to negotiate the 36 cross-country fences, which are located along a 6,500metre track.

British riders aiming for success include Zara Phillips (pictured) and Polly Stockton. Phillips will be looking to better her 2003 Luhmuhlen run where she finished fifth in the CCI*** section with Cantor Index’s Toytown. The pair were also runners up at Burghley in 2003 and have shown promise this season, finishing seventh in the Advanced at Rolleston last month.

Polly Stockton has already been selected for the European championships on her Badminton ride, Tangleman but will undoubtedly be looking to add a reserve place with a good performance from Anne Henson’s Tom Quigley. This combination were second in the CCI*** at Punchestown last year and fourth at Blenheim CCI*** in 2003.

Seven other combinations will also be competing for Britain, the youngest being Harry Meade with Richard and Carolyn Lissack’s Midnight Dazzler. The pair finished ninth in the Advanced at Withington Manor in April.

German riders have been enjoying a particularly good season and must be favourites for top honours on their home turf, but the Scandinavian duo of reigning World Cup champion Linda Algotsson with Stand by Me and Pia Pantsu with Ypaja Karuso, along with British contingent, will ensure they don’t get it all their own way.