THOUSANDS of people will be heading for Woodstock on Thursday for the Blenheim Palace horse trials.

This year’s trials will host an eventing qualifier for the 2012 Olympics, and more than 60,000 people are expected over the four days.

Organisers have said they are anticipating the biggest crowds since Blenheim hosted the European Eventing Championships in 2005.

The Olympic qualifying event is being held for Africa, Middle East, South East Asia and Oceania.

Event director Mandy Hervieu said: “Blenheim is one of the best three-star events in the world and the terrain is hilly and demanding – not unlike Greenwich.

“This makes us a natural stepping stone for those looking for Olympic selection.

“We have invested heavily over the past two years to put on two days of cross country. It is lovely to see that coming to fruition.

“We expect the venue to be packed to the rafters with fans eager to see Olympic hopefuls perform so close to London 2012. There’s lots to see and do, including some fantastic shops, displays and family entertainment.”

Blenheim, which began in 1990, is firmly established in the eventing calendar, attracting international champions.

The venue has become synonymous with Olympic qualification. In 2003, it hosted the Asia-Pacific Championships as a qualifier for the 2004 Athens Olympics and a second Olympic qualifier in 2007 for the 2008 Beijing Games.

Teams from Canada, New Zealand, USA, Germany and Belgium are all already through to London 2012, alongside host nation Great Britain.

But the likes of Australia, Japan and South Africa will be going all out at Blenheim to clinch Olympic qualification.

It means that as well as seeing the usual eventing stars competing at Blenheim, spectators will be treated to some of the best riders from outside Europe and North America, battling it out to qualify for the Olympic Games.

This year the event offers more than 150 trade stands, a wide range of children’s entertainments, the Anthony Nolan Fun Run and a Sporting Bears classic car display.

Riding for the Disabled Association has been named as the official charity for this year’s event.

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