Billington has eye on Atlanta

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Geoff Billington's quest for a place in the Olympic team enters a crucial stage as the ENZA Nations Cup Show begins its four-day run at Hickstead this morning.

Billington is part of the British squad at Hickstead, where he will be riding the wonderful Dutch-bred It's Otto. The 10-year-old is probably the best horse in the country and Billington will have the chance to prove it in tomorrow's Nations Cup, for which he seems certain to be selected for the British team.

The quartet for the team will be chosen from the five squad members: Billington, John and Michael Whitaker, William Funnell and Di Lampard. Last year John Whitaker rode Welham to a double-clear round for the victorious British team and this game little horse is likely to be his mount again tomorrow, and in Atlanta.

Michael Whitaker's likely Olympic partner, Twostep, will not be aimed at the Nations Cup or Saturday's Grand Prix. Hickstead will be the horse's first show since Bordeaux in February, where he was being treated for a cut lip when he reared over backwards on to concrete.

On that occasion Twostep was concussed and he cracked two bones in his withers. In November last year his leg became trapped in an iron gate and he had to have 12 stitches.

But Twostep also had his moments of glory last year, winning the Calgary Grand Prix and finishing second in the European Championships. Ronnie Massarella, the British team manager, will be hoping to see Twostep jumping in the smaller classes with all his old flair this week.

The Germans have not sent their top riders to Hickstead, but some of the best competitors from France, Ireland and Belgium will be in action at the Sussex showground, where the ENZA Grand Prix carries a first prize of pounds 12,000.