Britain’s Olympic hopes have received a much-needed boost with the news that three nations will qualify for Athens 2004 at the forthcoming European Show Jumping Championships in Donaueschingen, Germany, in August.

The two highest-placed teams which are as yet unqualifiedwill win their Olympic chance, along with the next team to have the best four combinations over the opening speed and Nations Cup competitions.

This is good news from the beleaguered British squad, which has lost a number of top horses to injury and overseas sales, including Michael Whitaker’s Landfurst 6, who was put down after suffering a fractured pastern at Aachen earlier this month.

Following this latest blow to the British squad, team manager, Derek Ricketts said: “This was a very tragic accident. Landfurst 6 was approaching the prime time in his international career and we had yet to see the best of him. This unfortunate happening only compounds our other recent British losses.”

The considerably depleted British squad is also without Tim Stockdale’s top ride Fresh Direct Parcival, who is injured and Keith Shore’s Magic Max, who has been sold. There is also a question mark over Di Lampard’s Abbervail Dream, who was withdrawn from the British squad at Aachen witha slight problem.