All eyes will be on the Americans at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in their bid for Tokyo 2020 selection, according to US Equestrian managing director of eventing Jenni Autry.
The biggest contingent of American eventing stars have travelled across the pond for the prestigious international five-star event at Burghley House, near Stamford.
Among those who will be in action over the week will be Burghley veterans Andrea Baxter, Bruce Davidson Jnr and Lillian Heard and newcomers such as Ariel Grald and Doug Payne.
And spirits are high in the USA camp after capturing team gold at the Lima Pan American Games last month to secure their qualification for next summer’s Olympics.
But with more riders than there are places available on the plane to Tokyo, Autry highlighted Burghley as a key opportunity for those battling for selection to lay down a marker.
“I’ve taken over from Joanie Morris, our previous managing director, about six weeks ago now and we’re definitely starting things off with a bang,” said Autry.
“We have 11 horses at Burghley Horse Trials which is the most we’ve ever had from America and we’re thrilled to have such a strong contingent at this year’s event.
“There’s a strong mix of first timers and those who are seasoned veterans at this level and we’re just excited to have a good week here and see what happens.
“We do have some of our high performance riders here competing at Burghley, so this is one of our selection trials and it’s definitely going to be an important competition.
“We have two US selectors here who will be watching very closely so we’re excited and we do feel the tide is turning, we’re going to build on that momentum from Lima.
“We also had a fantastic showing at Millstreet as well and we’re hopefully going to carry on that momentum through to Burghley and onto the Olympics in Tokyo.”
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is one of only six five-star events in the eventing calendar - and one third of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing - attracting more than 160,000 visitors each year.
The prestigious three-day eventing competition is a comprehensive test of the all-round ability of the horse and rider, comprising of dressage, cross-country and showjumping.
Burghley has become one of the most popular and highly regarded within the equestrian and social calendars, ranking within the UK’s top ten national sporting occasions by attendance.
And Autry highlighted the lengths that many of the American riders need to go to in order to make the long journey to Burghley to represent the stars and stripes in Stamford.
“It’s not easy to cross the pond to get here to compete, but it’s something we’ve really emphasised being able to get our riders on the world stage outside our bubble in America,” she said.
“It’s definitely something where we rely on our community back home to be able to fundraise, so you’ll have riders putting on auctions to be able to sell items to fund the trip.
“They also hold parties that take donations so it’s really a community effort that we have and it speaks to the type of camaraderie we have in America.
“Everyone really bands together to get our riders here and we’re just thrilled we managed to have 11 here for this week. We’re looking forward to seeing how they do.”
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (September 5-8) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk