MANY top international riders, including Zara Phillips, William Fox-Pitt and Tina Cook of Team GB, will be warming up for next month's World Equestrian Games at Gatcombe's Festival of British Eventing this weekend, writes Jayne Bennett.

Oliver Townend will also be in the line-up as he attempts to retain the championship title he won in 2013 on Armada.

Other international stars entered include this year’s Badminton winner, Sam Griffiths (Australia), New Zealand’s ever-popular Andrew Nicholson, who is due to ride both Avebury and Nereo, and Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon, who has recently switched base from Moreton-in Marsh to Aston Subedge in the North Cotswolds.

Course designer Captain Mark Phillips, who organises the event with his son Peter, has promised that the going will be good despite the prolonged spell of hot weather.

Phillips said: “We’re really excited about the festival. We will have top horses and top riders from around the world.

“With so much rain this spring we have had more cover than ever. Many of the fence combinations have been changed and I don’t expect the new route to make the time any easier to achieve."

A few changes have been made to the cross country course, which should be popular with spectators as it involves a new route through the Park Bowl area, as well as changes to The Folly complex.

Festival director Tim Henson said: “People used to think that all the action was in Park Bowl, but in fact there are two great viewing areas as the Avening Banks is now a great place to view some great challenges and combinations.”

And with some super summer weather looking set for this weekend, extra car parking has been organised for the thousands of spectators anticipated.

Car parks open at 8am daily. Pony Club show jumping and the Dubarry Burghley young event horse judging takes place on Friday, with Advanced and Novice dressage, show jumping and cross country on Saturday and Sunday. The British Open Championship takes place on Sunday.

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