Equestrian: King back in big time

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MARY KING'S two Olympic prospects, Star Appeal and King Solomon III, return to the three-day event scene when they compete for the PERA Global Masters title, at the Burghley Pedigree Chum Horse Trials, which begin today at Stamford in Lincolnshire.

King's two mounts had time off last year while she was expecting her second child. They had another holiday while their rider was recovering from a fall at Saumur in April in which she sustained a broken wrist and ankle.

Both horses had their last three-day event runs in September 1997 - Star Appeal at Burghley, where King rode him on Britain's winning European Championship team, and King Solomon at Achselschwang in Germany, where he won his third consecutive event at three-star level.

Burghley will be the first four-star event for Solomon and provide the chance for King to prove his Olympic credentials. The horse, who is third into the dressage arena this morning, should get off to a good start.

First to go will be Mark Todd of New Zealand and another Olympic prospect, Word for Word, his winning mount in the British Open Championship at Gatcombe and the runner-up at Badminton this year.

Todd, who also rides Diamond Hall Red, will be aiming for his fifth Burghley victory. His compatriot, Blyth Tait, will be looking for his second win in succession, having coped with atrocious conditions last year to be first on Chesterfield (his only runner this year) and second on Aspyring.

Britain's Ian Stark, already chosen to ride Jaybee in the European Championships later this month, will be on Arakai. The 11-year-old blew a fuse in the dressage arena at Thirlestane Castle last month, so he is sure to be given plenty of work before his test tomorrow.

Captain Mark Phillips, the course designer, says that the 35 obstacles represent "as big a test of horse and rider as can be found anywhere in the world."