Latecomer Hanley seizes his opportunity with style

Cameron Hanley, a member of Ireland's victorious Nations Cup team on Friday, rounded off a wonderful few days at the Traxdata Royal International Horse Show when winning yesterday's closing contest for the King George V Gold Cup on Ballaseyr Twilight.

Cameron Hanley, a member of Ireland's victorious Nations Cup team on Friday, rounded off a wonderful few days at the Traxdata Royal International Horse Show when winning yesterday's closing contest for the King George V Gold Cup on Ballaseyr Twilight.

Hanley had only been drafted on to the team on Wednesday after Amber du Montois, the intended mount of Peter Charles, was found to be lame. The 27-year-old Irishman, who worked in Switzerland for over eight years, is now trained by Charles whom he has found enormously helpful. "He can criticise you and make you feel confident at the same time," Hanley said.

Third to go in the five-horse jump-off, Hanley won from the British winners of last year's Hickstead Derby, Rob Hoekstra and Lionel II, by a margin of 1.62sec. Germany's Lutz Gripshover, who finished third on Warren, would have won but for hitting the first jump-off fence.

Hanley's victory in this classic contest for men completed a double for his employers at the Ballaseyr stables in the Isle of Man, for whom he has worked for just two months. Earlier, Hanley had been helping another Ballaseyr rider, Austria's Claudia Neureiter, when she won the women's equivalent - the Hasseroder Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

Geoff Billington, eager to secure a place on the British Olympic team which will be announced on Thursday, had looked to be heading for a splendid clear round in the King's Cup on Virtual Village It's Otto until a rail was dislodged from the final fence to loud groans from the crowded stands.

Before this meeting started, the British Olympic selectors must have already decided to include the two Whitaker brothers in the team for Sydney. The form shown by Billington on It's Otto and Di Lampard on Abbervail Dream was therefore of greater significance.

These two seemed the likely candidates for the two remaining places until Carl Edwards confused the issue, underlining his claims with a double clear round in Saturday's Samsung Nations Cup at Gijon, in Spain. Edwards and the mare Bit More Candy had also jumped double clears at Lisbon and Aachen this year, which now makes him the leading rider of the Samsungseries, with Bit More Candy the leading horse.

The selectors must have been digesting the news from Gijon yesterday, when they watched Lampard and Abbervail Dream complete two polished clear rounds to be runners-up in the Queen's Cup. "I'd been advised to go for two clear rounds," Lampard said, having sacrificed speed for accuracy and so leaving the door open for the tworiders who followed her.

Claudia Neureiter, the 26-year-old daughter of an Austrian lorry driver who had started her working life as a girl groom, made the most of this opportunity when finishing clear on Ballaseyr Leonardo in a time that was 0.25sec faster.

Neureiter, who has been based on the Isle of Man for the last 18 months, won another major contest at Telfs in the Austrian Tyrol four weeks ago. "Willi Melliger was second, so I was really proud," Neureiter said of that earlier victory.

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