Geoff Billington: Bob Ellis deserves a knighthood! [H&H VIP]

  • THE Blue Chip Winter Championships is a popular show at a fantastic venue. It runs like clockwork and there is something for everyone.

    The grand prix was good and spectators could watch great riders such as Michael Whitaker, Billy Twomey and Tina Fletcher, as well as younger riders coming through. Unfortunately, we older ones got left behind!

    The course was technical, especially the last dog-leg double of verticals to an oxer and an upright to finish. I told Michael Whitaker five strides then four, but he reckoned six and five. Afterwards he said he’d gone on my strides. It didn’t help him — he got a time-fault — but I’d better accompany him on an all-expenses paid trip to the World Cup final in France as adviser.

    Riders were honoured to have our Olympic course-designer Bob Ellis building here. He did a fantastic job in London. The best team, Britain, won under pressure. But they only had to concentrate on themselves and each other and Bob had to consider everyone — from the world’s best to the less experienced.

    I stood by him when the last horse jumped the last fence and I welled up, I could see the relief on his face. He got the right results without destroying any horse or rider. Our riders were rightly honoured at the Palace, but Bob deserved a knighthood, too.

    I did the masterclass during Friday’s Gala night. Every other year Kelvin [Bywater, show director] makes the perfect choice — me! I never plan it and do it off the cuff. Although I have ideas, I prefer to play it by ear. And this year, they were a good crowd, listening and taking it all in.

    A masterclass has to be show business and I like to ad-lib. Fortunately, I have a degree in bullshit!