Perfect finale for Hanley and Charles


The Irish saved the best wine till last at Olympia yesterday, with Cameron Hanley and Peter Charles scoring a brilliant double on the last day of the London show jumping championships after drawing a blank earlier in the week.

Hanley gave his Isle of Man sponsors Ballaseyr Stables a great boost in the opening class when riding their up-and-coming star Ballaseyr Olympic to win the Christmas Eve six-bar outright from a star-studded cast.

The 27-year-old, who married his Dutch girlfriend Evelyn just over three weeks ago, celebrated his nuptials by drawing first blood for Ireland at the London fixture, coasting to victory over a straight run of fences that included a final upright standing at only fractionally under six foot.

Hanley, who moved to England this summer after an eight-year stint in Switzerland, had been dancing into the small hours at the grooms party the night before, but his teetotal habits meant his judgement was unimpaired yesterday as he steered the talented Olympic clear down the massive line of fences. Just three survived to the fourth round, with the line of fences raised each time. Ludger Beerbaum was first to go of the trio, but Gustav M rolled the top pole off the last with his forelegs. Hanley was next in with Ballaseyr Olympic, which had finished third on his Puissance debut 48 hours earlier.

Then the nine-year-old had faulted at 7ft 1ins, but he made no mistakes in his first ever six-bar yesterday and, when last man in John Renwick hit three fences with Millbrook, the Irish duo were left as the undisputed winners.

It was the perfect finale to a perfect year for the young Mayo born rider, who sprang to prominence at Hickstead in July when he won the King's Cup with Ballaseyr Twilight and then rode the same horse to victory in the Kerrygold Grand Prix at Dublin. Hanley was also on four of Ireland's record breaking 10 Nations Cup winning teams and then went on to win the Dairygold Grand Prix at the Millstreet World Cup show last month.

Fittingly, Hanley's mentor Peter Charles then swept to victory in the following speed class, the Christmas Hamper, finishing with a 1.69-second advantage over Frenchman Hubert Bourdy to pick up u1,500 £1,500 to match Hanley's winning cheque.

Charles was riding the 12-year-old Traxdata Mulligan, winner of Grand Prix classes at both Hertogenbosch in Holland and the new international in Essex earlier this year. "He's a bits and pieces horse," Charles said about Mulligan after his win, "but he's very useful."

Hanley's Ballaseyr string of horses are all based at Peter Charles' Hampshire yard, but Charles himself featured on only two of Ireland's 10 winning Nations Cup teams. He was part of the triumphant quartets at both Modena and Dublin, but was then forced to pull out of the team at Aachen, Hickstead and Rotterdam when Traxdata Amber du Montois "tweaked" a suspensory ligament.

Christmas Eve six-bar: 1, Ireland's Ballaseyr Olympic (Cameron Hanley); 2, Germany's Gustav M (Ludger Beerbaum); 3, Britain's Millbrook (John Renwick); 4, Germany's Loro Piana Giorgio (Lars Nieberg); equal 5, Belgium's LBG Prince De Revel (Ludo Philippaerts), Switzerland's Scutt (Willi Melliger), Germany's Silwa Grandinus (Helena Weinberg) and Britain's Captain Wellington (Andrew Davies).

Christmas Hamper: 1, Ireland's Traxdata Mulligan (Peter Charles); 2, France's Querjac de l'Ain (Hubert Bourdy); 3, Belgium's Espadon V (Ludo Philippaerts); 4, Britain's Warren (Mark Armstrong); 5, Germany's Opus Sept (Marcus Ehning); 6, France's Dismene de Baugy (Herve Godignon).