It’s been a few weeks since I last tipped a winner and I’m beginning to feel guilty. It’s not just the possibility that someone might have taken my advice and lost their money – after all who on earth really believes that they’ll make money by following my tips? It’s the fact that so many losing punters are obviously turning to drink...
According to figures released by the Scottish Whisky Association this week, Scotch whisky contributes roughly £4.9 billion to the UK economy - about 40% more than the estimated economic contribution of British horseracing. I may not be entirely responsible for the disparity but, now that I think about it, there is a correlation between the diminution of my whisky stocks at home and the number of losers that I've been backing each Saturday.
But at least it’s better than backing winners. Because every time I open a bottle of Champagne I am contributing to the UK’s trade deficit of goods (excluding oil) which amounts to £112 billion. It turns out that Scotch whisky is the largest net contributor to the UK’s balance of trade in goods, with exports reaching £3.9 billion against imports of just £0.2 billion. The net benefit of £3.7 billion is nearly twice as much as that generated by sales of aircraft (£1.9 billion) and miles better than our national deficit on clothing (-£12.3 billion).
Just as the horseracing industry has been proactive in boosting the sport in Scotland, the whisky industry has recently been expanding south of the border. A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to have been treated to a tour of The Lakes Distillery - where their first spirits have already been distilled and lie in maturation casks until their third birthday, when the pale liquid will have taken on more colour and will finally be classified as whisky.
I tasted the future at The Lakes Distillery and it is full of promise – which, coincidentally, is very much the theme of this weekend’s racing action. Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day features a couple of dozen horses currently occupying prominent positions in the betting for Championship races. In addition to Un De Sceaux and Thistlecrack in their respective trials, we could be treated to the sight of More Of That in the whisky sponsored Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. In the Cleeve Hurdle I hope Ballyoptic (this week's selection) will have a chance of upsetting the World Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry.
Win or lose, the results of this weekend's races at Cheltenham will be picked over in detail over the next few weeks - at Festival Preview Nights up and down the country. We’ll be staging our own Preview Night, at Cartmel Racecourse, on Thursday 9th March with a panel of experts – who will necessarily be much more knowledgeable than me. Tickets, costing just £16, are available from the racecourse office (o15395 36340). The price includes a one-course meal during the interval.
We will also be serving whisky, should anyone feel the need.