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Correspondent’s Week

This week by freelance financial and racing journalist Andrew Michael

Wake up on Monday to the sound of the most energetic gang-bang taking place outside the bedroom window. It has been a harsh winter in the Cotswolds and dozens of frogs are in my garden pond copulating with gusto to make up for lost time.

Such pent-up excitement seems appropriate given that tomorrow sees the start of the Cheltenham Festival, the greatest event in the horse-racing calendar. A chance for me to set aside financial journalism for a few days and let my role as racing editor for sports monthly Inside Edge take priority.

Despite early deadlines, I am hopeful that the tips we have already provided in our extensive festival coverage pass muster. There will also be daily updates on the magazine’s website. Fund managers may disagree but trying to pick the winner of a race such as the 30-runner County Hurdle four weeks before the contest is run makes stockpicking seem an absolute doddle, I reckon.

I get to the course early on Tuesday and immediately bump into financial marketing whizz Philip Martin of The Abacus, a racing fan. We toddle off for the first Guinness of the week.

IE readers who followed my tips for Tuesday enjoy a corking start to the meeting with two wins and two seconds from four featured races. However, the festival is a great leveller and tipsters cannot remain smug for too long. On Wednesday, winners are hard to come by and I draw a blank. In fact, the only cash I come close to banking is when a needy racegoer offers me good money for a couple of Montecristo cigars sticking out of my top pocket late that evening in a local hostelry.

Thursday arrives and the formbooks are set aside for a moment. At 9am sharp, Tuffers the cat, the Michael household’s legendary Bengal tabby, takes centre stage for a festival tradition. The pages of the Racing Post are opened to the day’s 25-runner four-mile chase and Tuffers is dropped from a height of precisely six inches on to the racecard in question. Down the years, his off-paw has enjoyed the uncanny knack of landing on the winner. This year, he keeps up his good strike rate by picking a horse which makes the frame. If Fidelity ever looks further afield for someone to run its special situations fund, it could do a lot worse than appoint this chap.

Thursday lunchtime and it is time for another pre-race livener, this time with the boss of a large financial adviser outfit I shall refer to as Jeremy and Incisive’s Julian Marr, who is on a day’s jolly. Julian buys me a Guinness and reports he has been following my tips this week. Perhaps the two events are related, I muse. Meanwhile, Jeremy, normally a terrifically shrewd and successful businessman, ties himself in knots working out how much the permutations in his Placepot bet will cost.

Friday is Cheltenham Gold Cup day. Before that I am keen to see how my tip, Black Jack Ketchum, runs in one of the earlier races. I recently visited the horse at his stables which are local to me. He wins his race easily and is a superstar in the making. And the main event? Well, all week long I have been banging the drum for War of Attrition. When he bounds over the last fence and scoots clear for a famous victory, I am relieved that all the formbook pounding in recent months has resulted in such a successful week.

In journalism, you are only as good as your last story and, with tipping, you will only ever be judged by your last selection. Roll on the Flat.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: paul.mcmillan@centaur.co.uk or telephone: 020 7970 4776

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