With many top riders away at the Rio Olympics this weekend, the time is ripe for a new British open champion to be crowned at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe (5-7 August).

Only two riders who have previously taken the open title contest the class this year — Australia’s Andrew Hoy (1997 champion on Darien Powers) and New Zealand’s Blyth Tait (1998 winner on Ready Teddy). Andrew rides Cheeky Calimbo this time and Blyth pilots Bear Necessity V.

Two further riders come forward who have previously won the national title, but were beaten on that occasion by a foreign rider. They are Oliver Townend (2013 national champion on Armada) and Nicola Wilson (last year’s national winner on Beltane Queen).

Oliver pilots Cillnabradden Evo in this year’s event, a very competitive horse on his day although he will need to lay to rest the ghosts of his fall here last year with Andrew Nicholson. Nicola is entered with last year’s Boekelo winner, Bulana (pictured top at Gatcombe last year).

Other favourites for the title include Sarah Cohen (Treason), Laura Collett (Pamero 4), Izzy Taylor (Briarlands Matilda) and France’s Maxime Livio (Pica D’Or) and Tom Carlile (Upsilon). No French rider has ever won the British open, so a win from one of these two would be a landmark in Festival history.

The British open is combined with the fourth leg of the Event Rider Masters this year, so spectators on the ground will be treated to the popular rolling podium and those at home can watch the event live online.

Up-and-coming stars

The Smith & Williamson intermediate championship and Dodson & Horrell novice championship often throw up stars of the future. Previous winners include Badminton and Burghley winner Tamarillo (intermediate, 2000), Badminton champion ODT Land Vision (intermediate 2007) and world silver medallist Cool Mountain (2007, novice).

Ones to watch in the intermediate this year include two offspring of the triple four-star winner Headley Britannia, Little Britannia and Britannia’s Mail, both ridden by Lucinda Fredericks.

Gatcombe also plays host to the TopSpec Corinthian Cup novice restricted championships, limited to riders who have not completed an intermediate class in the current or preceding five years or an advanced class in the current or preceding 10 years.

Full report of Gatcombe in H&H next week, out 12 August. H&H is published on a Friday next week to allow us to report the full Olympic evening competition, which finishes on Tuesday, 9 August.