Top British and German eventers are set for a thrilling battle at this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials that could prove an Olympics dress-rehearsal.
Organisers have announced a maximum 85-strong field for the event from May 4-7, with a further 49 combinations on the waiting list and for the first time it features Germany's Michael Jung, the reigning world and European champion, who is a leading contender for team and individual gold in London this summer.
Jung spearheads a strong German challenge that also includes Andreas Dibowski, Bettina Hoy and Simone Deitermann.
Last year's European team bronze medalists France and Olympic dark horses New Zealand also have powerful representation, with the Kiwi contingent highlighted by reigning Badminton champion Mark Todd and 2010 world individual bronze medalist Andrew Nicholson.
World number one Mary King has two horses entered, although not her probable Olympic ride Imperial Cavalier, while her fellow British star William Fox-Pitt will ride two of the five he has put forward - Seacookie, Macchiato, Lionheart, Parklane Hawk and Neuf des Coeurs.
King and Fox-Pitt appear certainties for the Olympics, as do Piggy French and Nicola Wilson, who will be aboard their potential London horses Jakata and Opposition Buzz, respectively.
The fifth and final British team spot, though, remains wide open, and there are several candidates for team boss Yogi Breisner to run the rule over at Badminton.
These include Laura Collett, a top 10 finisher last year, Pippa Funnell, Polly Stockton and Oliver Townend, who won Badminton and Burghley in 2009 and will choose two from Arctic Mouse, ODT Sonas Rovatio and his new ride Armada.
Lucy Wiegersma (Woodfalls Inigo Jones and Simon Porloe) is also in the Olympic frame, and considerable interest will surround Zara Phillips' Badminton challenge on the consistent High Kingdom.
Phillips guided High Kingdom to a 10th-place finish at Burghley last September, and a strong Badminton display would undoubtedly keep her in Breisner's thoughts for London.
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