King aims to avoid tension

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Mary King and Ian Stark will be looking for trouble-free rides when they compete in the Blenheim Vauxhall Monterey International Horse Trials, which begin today in Oxfordshire. Both are expected to be part of the quartet which defends the British team title at next week's European Open Championships at Burghley.

King will be on King William, as she attempts to repeat the Blenheim victory achieved last year with King Solomon III. The horse has a reputation for demolishing show jumping fences on important occasions, but he should not get as tense in the relaxed atmosphere of Blenheim.

Whereas King William has taken a step down the ladder, Stark's mount, The Moose, is aiming towards the top. This giant of 18 hands went well enough when finishing ninth at Le Lion d'Angers last year to suggest that he may be a Badminton horse in the making.

Badminton is likely to be on many riders' minds, now that qualification has been changed. To earn a Badminton place at Blenheim, horses will need to finish in the top 25 per cent.

Saturday was originally scheduled as cross-country day at Blenheim, but the Palace and Park will now be closed, out of respect for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. The cross-country will be run on Sunday, with the final show jumping phase at 9.30am on Monday.