GATCOMBE PARK is gearing up to host the Festival of British Eventing at the Royal estate near Minchinhampton on August 5-7.

Several top names have entered the British Eventing Open Championship including former champions Mary King, William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and Clayton Fredericks (AUS), as well as this year’s Badminton winner Mark Todd (NZL).

There will also be Novice and Intermediate Championships and the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse Competition.

Mary King, winner of the Open Championship four times previously, has four entries including her Lexington four-star winner Kings Temptress.

Marlborough-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson has a strong hand of three entries as he bids to capture the title he last won in 2002.

More than 80 horse and rider combinations are entered into the Intermediate Championships, including Oliver Townend, who has qualified with four horses, most notably his reigning Novice Champion Jeepers Creepers. Townend has won this class on two previous occasions.

The Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship has 75 confirmed starters including former National Champion Ruth Edge from Cumbria.

This year, the 26-fence Open course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips, includes seven new combination fences such as a sizeable drop into water at the bottom of the Park Bowl.

“It doesn’t matter how many times a rider has been round Gatcombe, the course is never the same and this year the changes should give the course a completely different feel,” said Phillips.

New for 2011 is the ‘Express Eventing’ class which is a fast-paced new discipline based on conventional eventing, but with all three phases (dressage to music, cross country and showjumping) taking place in and around the main arena on Saturday and Sunday.

Up-and-coming local riders Georgie Spence, from Chippenham, and Laura Collett, from Membury, will be taking part in this new and exciting competition.

As well as the packed timetable of eventing there will be trade stands and displays in the main arena, including the ever-popular Shetland Grand National.

Tickets are on sale now from the box office.

DRESSAGE superstar Michael Eilberg triumphed once more at the 23rd Badminton Dressage Championships.

Eilberg, who dominated the Hartpury Festival of Dressage the previous week, won the The Moloh Young Dressage Horse of the Year class for the second year running with top horse, five-year-old Woodlander Farouche.

More than 50 horses were entered in the top class of the day which was presided over by international judges Spencer Wilton, of Cherington near Tetbury, and Peter Holler, from Germany; both judges commented on the high standard of horses at the competition.

On the second day, there were also a lot of entries for the Badminton Horse Feeds classes. Jess Bennett from Bristol won both the Middle of the Road and High Performance classes on Fine Time.

The Badminton Dressage Championships is an unaffiliated, not-for-profit event. A charity raffle was held this year with prizes including lessons with Ferdi Eilberg and Spencer Wilton, a visit to Carl Hester, and a Garden Day at Badminton House.

Charities chosen by the winners included, Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Alzheimers, Help for Heroes and Cancer Research.