Home crowd spur Hanley to 'special' victory

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The Independent Online

Cameron Hanley proved himself one of the best in a vintage year for young Irish show jumpers yesterday when he rode Ballaseyr Twilight to a win at the Kerrygold International Grand Prix, the closing contest of the Dublin Horse Show.

Cameron Hanley proved himself one of the best in a vintage year for young Irish show jumpers yesterday when he rode Ballaseyr Twilight to a win at the Kerrygold International Grand Prix, the closing contest of the Dublin Horse Show.

The 27-year-old Irishman, who is based in England with Peter Charles, partnered the same horse to victory in last month's King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead. Yesterday's victory, however, had to rate as the most satisfying to date. "When you win in front of your own home crowd, it has to be something special," he said.

Only four horses reached the jump-off in which the Frenchman Michel Hecart, who won two contests at Wembley's Horse of the Year last October, opened with a clear round. His time on Baeken Platiere had looked vulnerable, as was proved when Hanley promptly went ahead by 2.85sec.

The last two riders - Philippe Lejeune, of Belgium, on Nabab de Reve and Schuyler Riley, of the United States, on Ilian - were marginally faster than the winner, but both made errors.

British riders had won this contest for the last three years, but this time they failed to reach the jump-off. William Funnell came closest when clearing all the fences on the impressive black stallion Vechta, only to incur one penalty for exceeding the time. Robert Smith, the victor in 1997, was faultless until Caloubet du Rouet removed a rail from the last of the 13 fences.

The victorious Hanley, who comes from County Mayo, had worked in a Swiss dealer's yard for eight and a half years. He reckons that the experience he gained there when riding a variety of horses has helped him to find the key to Ballaseyr Twilight, with whom he plans to return to Hickstead later this month to compete in the British Jumping Derby.

"He has plenty of scope," Hanley said of the 11-year-old gelding. "He's also careful, brave and very sensitive. I try not to interfere with him and it seems to work, he fights for me instead of fighting against me."

Hanley is quick to express his gratitude to Charles, who phoned him in Switzerland to tell him that there was a vacancy to ride horses belonging to the Ballaseyr stables. "It was the chance I'd been looking and waiting for all my life," Hanley said yesterday.

DUBLIN HORSE SHOW: Kerrygold International Grand Prix: 1 Ballaseyr Twilight (C Hanley, Irl) clear, 39.69sec; 2 Baeken Platiere (M Hecart, Fr) clear, 42.54; 3 Nabab de Reve (P Lejeune, Bel) 4 faults, 39.57. Best GB: 6 Vechta (W Funnell) 1 fault in 1st round; 9 Senator Caloubet du Rouet (R Smith) 4 faults in 1st round. Kerrygold Speed Championship: 1 Pomone de Couzeix (B Rocuet, Fr) 54.27secs; 2 Lord Pachat (W Funnell, GB) 54.43; 3 Roxette la Silla (A Romo Jr, Mex) 56.48.

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