Burnham Market international horse trials could well have been a first tep on the road to Rio for some of the top-flight riders on show.
Former Olympians, world and European champions were among those who travelled to West Norfolk for the weekend in the hope of putting in performances good enough to catch the eyes of Olympic team selectors.
It was the first major event in the eventing calendar and attracted nearly 1,000 entries including stars from the UK and overseas as well as a good turnout of riders from closer to home.
But the biggest cheer of the three days went up for gold medallist William Fox-Pitt who was returning to competition after an horrendous fall last year which threatened to end his career.
William admitted he chose his first competition partners carefully, opting to ride the experienced Cool Mountain and Parklane Hawk on his return to competition.
“They are old pros and literally carried me round – I only had to hold on. It’s a great relief to finish in one piece with two clear rounds and to be feeling good.”
But while William was the big news story, the man of the moment was Oliver Townend.
He has dominated the headline CIC3* class for the last two years and this time not only won the class but also took the runners up spot with Note Worthy.
Oliver took 10 horses to Burnham Market, also won the Open Intermediate class with Lanfranco and had four others in top ten placings over the three days.
Australia’s Sammi Birch claimed the CIC3* class keeping Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal back in second with Germany’s Pia Munker in third.
Izzy Taylor was best of the Brits in fourth making this a truly international class.
Other big names featuring in the results included Bettina Hoy, Pippa Funnell, who started her career in Norfolk, Andrew Nicholson, Blyth Tait, Mark Todd, Andrew Hoy and Kristina Cook.
The event’s main sponsor this year was North Norfolk-based estate agency, Barefoot Estates. Co-owner and director, Helen Millin, said: “We have had a fantastic three days and this has been the icing on the cake for the launch and awareness of our new business.”
Event director, Alec Lochore, said: “Sunshine always helps to bring in the crowds and the riders love to be cheered on, particularly on the cross country course.
““I am delighted, that so many of the best riders in the world choose to bring their top horses and their up and coming horses to Norfolk every spring.”
Alec and his team now turn to finalising plans for their horse trials at Houghton Hall at the end of May when they expect an equally impressive line up of competitors.