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Oliver Townend heading back to Burnham Market International

Oliver Townend on Sweeps Crystal Cruise at Burnham Market International Horse Trials last year. Picture: Ian Burt

Oliver Townend on Sweeps Crystal Cruise at Burnham Market International Horse Trials last year. Picture: Ian Burt

Britain's leading event rider Oliver Townend will attempt to defend his succession of wins at the Barefoot Retreats Burnham Market International's headline class, the CIC***, at the end of the month.

Townend, from Shropshire, has claimed victory a remarkable 10 times since 2007 and has this year entered his Burghley winner, Ballaghmor Class.

With Burnham Market the opening leg of the Tri-Star Grand Slam with its £50,000 ‘winner takes all’ bonus he will undoubtedly be aiming for an early lead in the series.

However, with 140 combinations listed in this class, competition will be fierce.

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, who finished second behind Ballaghmor Class at last autumn’s Burghley, are entered, as are Burghley third-placed Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul and European bronze medal winners Nicola Wilson and Bulana.

Ones to watch are Laura Collett and Mr Bass, who bagged two CIC***s last season, including the penultimate leg of the 2017 Grand Slam, and Kitty King with Vendredi Biats who claimed the final leg last year.

Crowd favourite Pippa Funnell has three horses in this class as well as two Advanced class runners.

Tina Cook and Billy The Red could claim a win in the Advanced – the pair finished fourth individually at last summer’s European Championships. Leading the New Zealand charge will be Sir Mark Todd’s Leonidas II and reigning Badminton champion Andrew Nicholson’s Swallow Springs.

The event, as usual, has attracted riders from across the globe. Eighteen nationalities will be represented, from as far afield as Hong Kong, Brasil, South Africa and Russia, with 800 horses due to compete over the three days.

As well as the horse trials, new for this year is an Exotic Animal Encounter on site on the Friday and Saturday, with meerkats, skunks, snakes and coatimundi – they will be running handling sessions and educational talks. Fens Falconry will also be attending, with a variety of birds of prey.

Barefoot Retreats Burnham Market International takes place from March 29-31 at Sussex Farm, PE31 8AG.

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