Uproar over British driving team selection

  • The British Horse Driving Trials Association (BHDTA) has denied allegations of foul play over the selection of competitors for the FEI World Combined Pony Championships in July.

    Following the announcement that Sue Denney, the highest-placed British driver at the last World Championships in 2005 and the winner of three selection events, had not been selected, messages expressing disbelief were posted by members of the public on the H&H (www.horseandhound.co.uk) and BHDTA websites.

    One read: “I think we all know Sue Denney should be going…it’s a sham by the selection committee”. Another said: “This must be a political decision, as with her track record Sue was Britain’s best hope of bringing back a medal”.

    When contacted by H&H, Ms Denney said: “I’m absolutely devastated and have considered giving up driving. The new selection committee is putting more emphasis on dressage than the marathon and cones phases, which is unfair.”

    Ms Denney said she suspected team trainer Robert Buck had influenced the judges.

    “Robert’s speciality is dressage and he is the personal trainer to Julie [Camm, one of those who was selected],” she said, also citing a possible conflict of interest where two members of the selection panel were judges at the national championships, where Sue was placed eighth after the dressage phase.

    Ms Denney felt she had been “marked down while others were marked up”.

    Mr Buck admitted to H&H that he had, in confidence, given an opinion to the selection panel, but he stressed: “My input was a small one and the selectors were free to discount any information I gave them.

    “In my opinion, Sue’s dressage is not reliable,” he added.

    BHDTA spokesman Sally Moreton downplayed the suggestion of foul play, saying: “This is just a case of sour grapes. There’s always going to be someone who gets left out. There’s no conflict of interest in being both a judge and a selector.”

    Team chef d’equipe and selector Jill Hollah told H&H: “The driving world is so small that judges can end up wearing more than one hat. But it is nonsense that anyone marked Sue down.”

    She added: “The selection panel is very conscientious. Many people don’t really understand the scoring system — we were looking at a combination of skills.

    “We went to a lot of trouble to ensure Robert had nothing to do with the singles.”

    For more driving news and reports, including the announcement of team members for the World Pony Championships, turn to p104 in the current issue of Horse & Hound (21 June, ’07)

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