THERE will be a strong northern contingent at this weekend's Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park, which promises to be bigger and better than ever this year.

The event has brought together three major championship titles - the British Open, British Intermediate and British Novice Championships - enabling spectators to see both today's heroes and tomorrow's prospects in action at one event.

Two strong hopes in the top British Open Championship are Northallerton's Nicola Tweddle and Barnard Castle's Karen Dixon.

Nicola is riding Sir Robert Ogden's horse Diable Au Corps, 16th at Bramham on his last outing, and Skiver, 20th at Badminton this year with an excellent performance in awful weather.

She will also be riding Highland Loch II, 29th at Bramham, and Mr Pickwick VI in the British Intermediate Championship. This latter ride is in good form, with an 18th at Windsor three-day event and a fifth at Knaptoft one-day event in Leicestershire on his last two outings.

Top international Karen Dixon rides the two great veterans, Too Smart and Uptotrix. Too Smart is a past winner at the British Championships and carried Karen at both the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, finishing fifth and 11th respectively.

He looked good at the Aske Hall one-day event recently, finishing fourth in a top open intermediate section, and won the Floors Castle international one-day event in Scotland in May.

Uptotrix also jumped a double clear at Aske Hall, a confidence-boosting return to action after a fall at Badminton this year.

There are several local entries in the British Intermediate Championship, which has been a breeding ground for international horses in the past.

Stockton-based Victoria Baker rides her Floors Castle open intermediate winner Ambidextrous and young Barnard Castle rider Tanya Buckingham, 19, has entered Dovecote Miss Scally, seventh at Chepstow international one-day event this year.

Fellow 19-year-old Lucy Holliday, from Thirlby, rides her 2004 Young Rider European short-listed partner High Times, second at Aske Hall on his last outing, while Thirsk's Carole Dennis rides Goulton Storm, tenth at the Burgie three-day event in Scotland in June.

Darlington's Julie Robinson is also among the entries on Elizabeth Simpson's horse Mistic Meg, who was 31st in last year's championships with a steady clear cross-country.

Nicola Tweddle also has two horses qualified for the British Novice Championship in the shape of Endeavour and Opposition Buzz.

Barnard Castle's Rhona Smith rides Signal Point, who qualified when second in the novice area final at Aske Hall, and Thirsk-based Sally Swiers is through on Eldmire Foxy Lady.