Four out of five of Britain’s Olympic silver-medal winning team head the Blenheim line-up, but there is also a strong international flavour to this year’s entries.
The event runs to the new short-format, with no steeplechase or roads and tracks on Saturday, but its imposing track is likely nevertheless to prove hugely influential in the competition.
Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt will both be riding four-star horses. Pippa is defending the title, which she won last year on Jurassic Rising, with the stallion Viceroy II, who was third here last year.
The duo have seen some impressive form recently, with some good results at AI and OI level, although their Badminton attempt earlier in the year went awry when the combination failed to clear an upright gate.
Fellow Olympian Jeanette Brakewell rides the only other stallion in the competition. McGuigan. The pair completed here last year, showing some improvement at Saumur earlier this season, making this their third three-star outing. And at only 10, the dark bay still has plenty of time ahead to realise his potential.
Meanwhile Moon Man seems to have settled happily into the three-star rhythm after refusing to play ball at Badminton, pulling himself up just three fences from home. With three decent international results under their belts this season, victory here could make up, at least partially, for what has so far been a blighted end to the season for Fox-Pitt.
There are several newcomers to Blenheim, including Nina Barbour and Butterball Brown, who are also making their debut three-star appearance. Winners of the British Intermediate Championship at Gatcombe last month, Laura Fortune with Hallo Again are also due to make their first appearance at Blenheim.
Of the international crowd, New Zealander Andrew Nicholson has two decent prospects in Flush Banker and Henry Tankerville. Both geldings have been having a good season, and Flush Banker’s speed across country will put him in good stead as long as he does not let himself down in the dressage phase.
Celebrity cross-country challenge
On Sunday, spectators will be treated to the thrill of the celebrity cross country competition, where pairs of well-known representatives from all areas of the equestrian world compete over a timed cross-country course, returning to a show jumping course in the main arena.
Win a muck machine with H&H
Visitors to the Horse & Hound stand at Blenheim will have the chance to win a fantastic Predator Kitten Pro muck collection machine, worth £2,250. The machine hooks on to a quad bike, ride-on mower, tractor, golf buggy or a 4×4 and its 4m-long “wander hose” makes keeping your paddocks muck free considerably less of a chore. For more details visit: www.predatorpeople.com or (tel: 01842 819960)
Horse & Hound will also be giving away £1,000-worth of Harry Hall gear at the stand (No. 80), and a host of special subscription offers will also be available.