Equestrianism: Stark fit to defend his title

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(First Edition)

IAN STARK returns to competition today less than four weeks after breaking a leg, to ride Clan Royal in the Scottish Championship Horse Trials at Thirlestane Castle, writes Genevieve Murphy.

The event is the final trial for both British and Irish riders aiming for a place in next month's European Championships at Achselschwang in Germany, where Stark is due to defend his individual title. 'The plaster came off on Monday afternoon and the leg feels fine,' the Scotsman said.

Karen Straker has been forced to withdraw Get Smart from the trial, because the horse damaged an elbow when he fell in the water at Gatcombe Park last Saturday. Get Smart is still on the European Championship long-list, but any setback in this crucial stage of preparation has to be worrying.

Virginia Leng on her Badminton winner, Welton Houdini, and Charlotte Bathe on last year's Burghley winner, The Cool Customer, have nothing to prove to the selectors. If they demonstrate that their horses are fit and well this weekend they are bound to be chosen for the European team.