EQUESTRIAN: British Olympic medallists head up Badminton entry list
12:28pm Thursday 21st March 2013 in Sport
GREAT Britain's entire London 2012 eventing team will feature among a stellar cast at this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (May 2-6).
The world's leading four-star event also sees reigning Olympic, world and European champion Michael Jung making his Badminton debut.
German star Jung, the only rider in eventing history to hold all three titles simultaneously, has entered his Greenwich Park winner La Biosthetique Sam, plus a high-class second ride in Leopin.
He will be joined by three colleagues that helped Germany win Olympic team gold in London, and another thrilling battle against Britain's finest lies ahead.
William Fox-Pitt has entered five horses - including the brilliant challengers Cool Mountain and Parklane Hawk - as he chases the coveted Rolex Grand Slam.
The Grand Slam is awarded to any rider who completes consecutive victories at Kentucky, Burghley and Badminton. It carries a prize of just over £230,000.
Britain's Pippa Funnell achieved the feat in 2003 - no other rider has managed it - but Fox-Pitt has an outstanding chance following his successes at Burghley in 2011 and Kentucky 2012.
Because Badminton was cancelled 12 months ago due to waterlogging, this year's event from May 3-6 now puts Fox-Pitt back in the Grand Slam spotlight.
The 44-year-old is joined among the entries by his 2012 Olympic silver medal-winning colleagues Zara Phillips, Mary King, Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson, who have all put forward their London rides - High Kingdom, Imperial Cavalier, Miners Frolic and Opposition Buzz, respectively.
There is also a welcome return for 2011 Badminton runner-up Piggy French.
Leicestershire-based French was selected for last year's Olympics but her top horses DHI Topper W and Jakata both suffered injuries and she had to withdraw. Wilson and Opposition Buzz replaced her.
Seven previous Badminton winners are among the field, including Fox-Pitt, King, recently knighted New Zealander Mark Todd, who is based at Foxhill, Highworth-based Australian Paul Tapner and Britain's Oliver Townend, who won Badminton and Burghley in 2009.
Laura Collett, based at the Membury Estate near Marlborough has both Rayef and Noble Bestman entered, with Wiltshire riders Tom McEwen, Harry Reade, Beanie Sturgis, Elizabeth Power and Marlborough-based New Zealand 2012 Olympic team bronze medallist Andrew Nicholson, who has three rides.
Almost 150 combinations were entered, with the traditional leading 85 on recent form accepted, and the remainder put on a waiting list.
Event director and course designer Hugh Thomas is set to unveil his cross-country track in the middle of next month, promising "a few tweaks" from last year.
Advance ticket sales, meanwhile, have already surpassed last year's record levels for an event that was ultimately defeated by incessant rainfall.
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