Here's the latest from our Highly Placed Professional.
'A lot of City Slickers went home last Friday licking their wounds or counting their winnings. Of course, the average punter will never tell you exactly what the state of play is. He prefers to keep schtum about his losing bets, and will only crow about the 33/1 outsider that came in with a 'monkey on the nose'. But I found it faintly reassuring in a week of so much woe and suffering that we could still concentrate on the only game in town - namely the Cheltenham Festival.
It's one of the weird unintended consequences of global financial turmoil that, once the futures and currency markets have stopped reacting, swinging and yo-yoing around like a bunch of demented Hobbits on crack, there follows a still calm in our dealing floors of doom that would put the mood music of your average local lending library to shame (I know we don't have many left these days, but you get the picture.)
Investors get spooked like a race-horse in its box, and no one wants to do anything. So post the terrible events in Japan, the conflict in Libya and the ongoing saga of just when the EU will implode, most of us bond gurus were sitting around nervously, twiddling our thumbs. This is when an event like Cheltenham comes in so handy - because at delightfully placed 40 minute intervals there is always another race upon which you have staked anything from £10 each way on just one little horsey, to a big wad on a whole array of doubles, trebles, each ways, and the odd infamous 'cross double' too.
Now a rank amateur like me can find it hard to make up his mind, so I find myself listening to all the hype about each particular nag, and then end up backing three in the same race, or even more. Clearly such a hedged strategy can only make me oodles of money if they all come home at the front. In one particularly irritating incident last week, however, Great Endeavour was pretty much about to win when not one, but two, of my other picks contrived to jostle him to the ground on the very last fence. Did the three jockeys simply fail to realise that they were part of my dream team ?
And every so often you hear a strangled cry from one of the punters on the trading floor: 'Go on my son! Whip him up!' (or words to that effect). You spend time between each race checking out your colleagues' picks, and then the adrenalin rush kicks in for each race. We sat there all week, hooked to the drip, drip, drip of action, like recovering addicts on methadone. Of course, our total stake in each race is nothing more than a rounding error in the great scheme of things, but by the end of the week, having been down several hundred, I finally pulled in a decent one - winning £200 on Zarkandur. I actually thought I'd backed it each way, but must have got confused (quite easily done). I was almost speechless to find out that I had wagered a 'massive' £25 'unhedged' on this race of some 25 horses. It was more of a stampede than a race, come to think of it!
And finally to the Gold Cup itself. All that nostalgic crap about Denman, Kauto Star, Imperial Commander, and the like. I mean I practically wanted to get my nose into a bag of oats myself! Every nag was poetically described as a 'good 'oss with a great heart'. Sure. They're all great when you've backed them the year they win the Cup, aren't they ? I couldn't decide, so sprayed a bit of pre-race money around, 'till I finally stuck a pony on Long Run to win. What the heck - I liked the fact it was ridden by an amateur. The rest, as they say, is history.
People are already optimistic that Long Run, the new crowd favourite, will win the Gold Cup again next year. Remarkable. At least I went home to face the wife having almost broken even for the week. I certainly wasn't like one of the Irish punters my mate saw at Cheltenham last week. He looked like an alcoholic tramp and was earnestly berating someone down his mobile phone: 'Look Padraid', he yelled, 'Wire me over another 20,000 Euro. I've FOOKED the lot'. Compared to that, my more honestly declared £250 loss for the week seems remarkably good value for allowing me to be a bit player in the only game in town. Now who's got a good tip for the 3.00 o'clock at Lingfield ?