WANBOROUGH-based Sir Mark Todd leads a strong Wiltshire contingent to this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, which begin in Gloucestershire today.

The four-time winner goes out second on Leonidas II in the dressage stage today, a horse he finished fourth on last year, before later returning to the arena tomorrow on NZB Campino.

“The horses are all good,” he said. “Leonidas and Campino are both in very good form.

“I am looking forward to hopefully both of them putting up a good performance at Badminton this year.”

Having won his first Badminton back in 1980 on Southern Comfort III, the New Zealand eventer will be pleased to see that course designer Eric Winter, in his first year in charge at Badminton, has taken a step back in time when putting together this year’s course.

Many have said that it resembles the swashbuckling designs of the 1970s, going in a clockwise direction and has also been described as chunky.

“It will be interesting to see what he has done,” added Todd. “I don’t imagine in his first year that he will make too many radical changes but it should be interesting.

“I want to see a testing course, I think that is what our sport is all about.

“With Eric, generally, his courses are rider friendly and not too many traps.

“I think it will be big as usual, it always is at Badminton, but hopefully it will be a nice track to ride.”

However, with last year’s winner Michael Jung fresh off the back of another victory at the Kentucky Horse Trials last weekend, Todd is more than wary of the German rider but believes he is beatable.

“He has had an incredible few years,” he said. “We’re all just going to have to be on our A game. He is beatable in the dressage but he doesn’t make many mistakes after that.”

Fellow Kiwi Andrew Nicholson, who is based in Marlborough, meanwhile, is still on the hunt for his first Badminton crown and will have a two-pronged attack on this year’s event with Qwanza and the much-fancied Nereo.

Studley-based Astier Nicolas heads across the border full of confidence with Piaf De B’Neville, the horse he claimed team gold and individual silver on at the Rio Olympics last year.

Dauntsey rider Beanie Sturgis, who claimed the Glentrool Trophy last time out for the biggest improvement after the dressage stage, will go again on Lewbowski, having finished 11th last year.

Marlborough-based Brazilian Dr Marcio Carvalho Jorge, on Lissy Mac Wayer, Purton Stoke’s Danielle Dunn, on Zocarla BLH, and Highworth-based Australian Paul Tapner, on Bonza King of Rouges, complete the county line-up.