Reigning British Open Champion Robert Smith is bookies favourite to win the British Open Show Jumping Championships at the Birmingham NEC (12-15 April).

Robert, who just missed an individual medal at the Athens Olympics, is aiming for a hat-trick at this year’s Championships having won the title on his own Kalusha, in 2005 and 2006. Ladbrokes are quoting Robert as the 6/1 favourite to retain the title for the third consecutive year.

A competitive line-up of top international riders will no doubt give Smith a run for his money. Among them is the Whitaker family comprising Michael (number four in the world, number one in Britain), and John, Robert and Ellen who currently occupy first, second, third and tenth respectively in the UK rankings. Six of the world’s top fifty riders have been invited to contest the Championship including former world number one, Switzerland’s Markus Fuchs and Ireland’s Jessica Kurten.

“Kalusha had a break over the winter, so the British Open will be his first big show this year,” Smith explained. “He is 13 and good to handle but he does have a mind of his own and can be unpredictable when jumping. However, he seems to like the British Open and if he starts well he should remain consistent throughout the competition.”

To book tickets for this year’s British Open please telephone NEC Box Office (tel: 08700 100 216) or book online at www.britishopenshowjumping.com. Tickets range from £25 to £45, subject to booking fee, with concessions for children under 15 and senior citizens.