Almost 300 combinations as are expected to converge on Solihull for the rescheduled Horse & Hound Winter Championships (11-14 June).
Emile Faurie, Richard Davison, Peter Storr and Kirsty Mepham will all be en route to Aachen but there will still be stars a-plenty.
Hot favourite for the open medium and its prize of a brand new saddle, has to be Henriette Andersen and Astonish.
The biggest challenge to the winner of last year¨s national elementary title looks like coming from the south, with the pick being two former Equilibra Sale horses, Reg Hardy’s Equilibra Mazzeltov, ridden by Alice Wilson and runner-up in 1999, and Katrina Cantrell’s Woodlander Markies, whose draw at the semi-finals did not do him any favours.
Vicky Thompson’s Machiavelli and Dries Roefs’s Half Moon Leopard are also in with a shout.
Lorna Edmonds has qualified her new ride Manitu, who was on last year’s silver medal-winning European pony team, while northern winners Libby Williams and Highlander IV are sure to take advantage of any mistakes.
Nurejev, who dead-heated for first in last year’s novice national championship, could well claim outright victory in the open elementary this time.
Owned by Margaret Baxter and ridden by Gareth Hughes, the horse has only been beaten twice.
His biggest rivals look to be Carl Hester and Helen Owen’s Donnerhall gelding Dolendo, ridden by Spencer Wilton, who could also be in the running for the open novice, where Gareth Hughes has the five-year-old stallion Rossgold Riva.
The restricted novice championship could well be annexed by an eventer, as both northern and Midland semi-finals went to competitors from that field.
Gill Mason’s Holysmoke III, a son of William Curtis, was the winner of the latter, while northern winner Andrea Morris, a newcomer to pure dressage, has ridden round Badminton and brings Greenbank Bertie, a giant of a horse who stands more than 17.2hh
Medium Elite Championships
Many riders in the medium elite final will be hoping to pick Carl Hester as their partner, as he has been part of the wining combination for two of the past three years.
After that, it is a question of hoping that the new partnerships gel in time to do their best with the “elite riders,” completed by Henriette Andersen, Jane Bredin, David Hunt, Adam Kemp, Ulrik Molgaard, Lizzie Murray, Dries Roefs, Erik Theilgaard and Vicky Thompson.
the Equest Championship
The Equest Championship looks a difficult one to judge, with tests ranging from elementary to prix st georges, but combinations in with a chance include Kate Atlee on Overstones Isadora and Dominique Parsons with Etoile Filante. The latter pair has also qualified at medium level after a good win in the southern restricted semi-final.
Dominique will come up against the cool-headed Pippa Childerhouse, who will be hoping to add one of the “big ones” to her five regional titles with Torrent.
The elementary to advanced medium music championship is a difficult one to call, although, with a £300 first prize, expect everyone to pull out the stops.
The second championship for prix st georges through to grand prix looks set to be a crowd-pleaser, with top kr exponent Jennie Loriston-Clarke entered on Catherston Liberator.
Jennie’s daughter Lizzie Murray is to bring Decipher and Dazzler.The eye-catching Leopardo, ridden by Isobel Wessels, will be bidding to repeat his kr victory at Stoneleigh and, having qualified at prix st georges and intermediaire I level, Isobel has chosen to compete at the latter.
Spectator entry is free during the day. Tuesday and Wednesday gala night tickets may be purchased in advance from the hotline (tel: 01270 629600).