A WHOLE host of eventing stars will flock to Wiltshire this week to compete at the prestigious Barbury Castle Horse Trials, writes Nicki Strong.

Leading the charge will be Marlborough’s Andrew Nicholson, who has no less than nine horses entered, including impressive course specialist Avebury. This combination will be bidding for victory in the three-star for a remarkable third consecutive year.

In fact the horse has completed here five times and took to it right away, placing second on his first attempt at the two-star course.

Avebury was somewhat lacklustre in Lexington in April, with a completely out of character showjumping round that clocked up 24 faults, but he seemed to have put that behind him at Salperton a few weeks ago.

In fine form is Membury’s Flora Harris, who recorded her first three-day win over the weekend, having made an eight-hour journey to Hopetoun in Scotland with Cesano H.

Harris has chances with Amazing VIII in the CIC three-star and Bayano in the CIC two-star. Her and Amazing VIII won the two-star last year so will be looking to follow up with another success.

She said: “We’re hugely competitive so we hope to give it a really good crack, and she loves it there. The terrain is not very punishing whilst being hilly, but you do need a good jumper - the showjumping is very influential. There’s a strong degree of technicality, there was a double of corners that was quite influential last year, and the water is a question too. There’s a few you definitely need to be awake for.

“It’s one of my favourite events, I absolutely love it there – it’s such good fun, a lovely atmosphere, the spectators all right there and you can see them all the way round. Really looking forward to it.”

Other entries include Lambourn’s Laura Collett, who has a handful of hopefuls, including her very highly thought of Pamero 4. The horse is owned by Kauto Star’s owner Clive Smith, whose hugely popular ex-King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner will be doing a demonstration with Collett for the second year running.

She will contest the CIC two-star with Pamero, who should be competitive. Collett will also take part in a charity event which will see jump jockeys, eventers and showjumpers all go head to head in the arena over a course of fences. She represents team captain Zara Phillips and will compete against the likes of champion jump jockey AP McCoy.

Tom McEwen withdrew Dry Old Party after he suffered a fall at Bramham but will head to Aston-Le-Walls with him in a few weeks.

His Barbury hopefuls include this year’s Badminton debutant Diesel and the smart Toledo De Kerser, who has already had a win this season.

McEwen said: “Barbury is great fun for owners and sponsors because they can sit and watch the cross-country from one place, the showjumping arena is right there. There’s no other cross-country course like it and the jumping and dressage arena’s are really lovely too.”

Asked who he was most looking forward to riding, he said: “It would have to be Diesel, I always look forward to riding him cross country. They should all have a good run though, and it’s a great learning experience for them.”

Highworth’s Paul Tapner is another of the usual suspects who has several rides, including two entries in the ever popular Retraining of Racehorses class. He will no doubt be competitive with Inishmor and Counterparty in this section.

Chippenham’s consistent Kitty King has CIC two-star entries with Persimmon and Ceylor LAN. The former downgrades having suffered an unfortunate fall at Bramham in the three-star, which will hopefully see the horse regain any confidence which may have been knocked. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in the placings.

Mildenhall husband and wife team Tim and Jonelle Price will both contest the feature three-star competition. Jonelle partners Aloha, while Tim will take his chances aboard Ringwood Skyboy, who had a cracking Badminton to finish a slightly surprising ninth.

Badgerstown’s eventing royalty Sir Mark Todd also has a shout for the Kiwi contingent, with a three-star entry for Leonidas. This pair have had a great start to the 2014 season, with a great four-star debut at Badminton and a three-star win at Belton back in April.

Back in 2008, Devizes-based Lucinda Fredericks won the big competition here on her renowned event mare Headley Britannia whom was sadly put to sleep earlier this year. It would be lovely if either of her offspring could follow in her footsteps in their respective classes; Britannias Mail and Little Britannia both have entries in the Novice section.

The event will be a special one for Rockley’s Lissa Green, who grew up at Maizey Manor. She cited the event as one of her favourites, particularly due to her father David Green’s involvement with the event, which is his brainchild. Green will ride Daisyonfire and Boleybawn Free in the Novice.