Riders at the 2004 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (29 April – 2 May) will be competing for a £165,000 prize fund, with the winner taking away a record £40,000 first prize.

The increased prize money for the world’s most prestigious event, which also forms the first element of the Rolex Grand Slam, will see all of the world’s best event riders at Badminton.

The event, which was devised as a preparation for the Olympics in 1949, will serve its original purpose again year, giving spectators the chance to see Olympic hopefuls in action before they head out to Athens.

Event director for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Hugh Thomas says: “This year’s event is an important qualifier for the Olympic Games, as well as being the most sought after prize in the sport of eventing and representing the pinnacle of achievement for any horse or rider.”

The cross-country will follow a reversed route once again, with the action starting and finishing in the main arena. The event will also maintain a long-format with Saturday’s speed and endurance test including roads and tracks and steeplechase phases.

Badminton has chosen the Pony Club as its official charity for 2004. The youth organisation, which has spawned many British eventing heroes, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

Mr Thomas continues: “You would have to go back to the 1960s to find a British winner of Badminton, who has not been a member of The Pony Club. This, coupled with the event’s long association with the Beaufort branch and the fact that it is The Pony Club’s 75th anniversary, gives us an excellent opportunity to help them look forward to the future.”

The box office opens today and tickets can be purchased via the Badminton website at www.badminton-horse.co.uk or (tel: 01454 218375). Last year’s advance tickets sold out, so spectators are advised to book early to ensure they don’t miss out.