Cheltenham is upon us. The year is flying. It won't be long now before we're counting down the shopping days to Christmas. The way things are going, our only hope of surviving until then as a nation is to have a good touch at the races.
The banks have been gambling for years, so maybe now is the time for the financiers to throw the dice one more time. At Cheltenham. It's our only hope. The markets are more likely to invest in a second-hand glove from an Artificial Inseminator than in an Irish bank.
And who are the markets anyway? Only a bunch of punters who speculate money on future events, which is a pretty neat definition of betting. That's why JP McManus is so good at it. He has that betting background and the brains to go with it.
I'm putting it up to the Central Bank here and now. Put me and my men in charge. Liquidity, ratios, leverage and junk bonds means nothing to us other than jargon.
Chips Gannon is a professional punter. His advice is simple: "Stay away from short-priced favourites. They won't change your life."
His nap for the week is Sadler's Risk, each way, in the Triumph Hurdle. "The odds are 7/1," says Chancellor Chips, "but they'll be only half that on the day."
Four billion each-way then on The Risk.
Tom Cooper is a long-time favourite of ours. Cooper is also a successful business man. He makes and repairs false teeth. He makes people smile more than any other trainer.
His runners are massive outsiders. No one gives them a chance, but Tom does and he knows a thing or two about Cheltenham.
His strike rate at Cheltenham is better than George Clooney's at the LA Menopause Ball. His Forpadydeplasterer runs in the Ryanair Chase. The price is around 33/1. Again, back it each-way.
Lucky William is his other runner. This one is only 20/1. According to bookies Berkie Browne and Declan Sheehy of Browne Bookmakers, the win part of the double comes to 713/1 and the place part is a touch over 54/1.
Two billion each-way would come to a winning pot of 1,539 billion.
The farmers would be able to afford to pay the few quid for the septic tanks and sure it wouldn't be the first time we flushed a few billion down the toilet.
Robbie Power, also known as Puppy, told a Cheltenham preview in Listowel he'll win the first on at Steps to Freedom at about 8/1. Some jockey this lad.
All our troubles will be over. Last year we suggested a similar investment and if the Government had taken my advice, the Exchequer would have benefitted by some 67 million.
Alas, there will be no Cheltenham for your correspondent this year. Broke. The annual church gate collection for the starving publicans isn't until Good Friday, one of only two days off we have in the year.
But there's always Cheltenham at home.
Timmy O'Dowd's pub in Tralee hosts a Ladies Day on Friday, which is also Gold Cup day. Timmy, you might remember, scored that spectacular goal against Dublin in the 1985 final. But we don't go on about it all the time. There's a prize for the best dressed lady and a band. All this in the middle of the day.
I'm told the beauticians in Tralee had to transport the fake tan by creamery lorry.
Round here, lads dress up in their good suits and travel down town as if they were either up in court or at the altar getting married. Not much difference between the two, if you ask me. The result in both cases is you are fined heavily and put on probation.
We host a Gold Cup luncheon as opposed to Jet's, our fierce rivals across the street, who hold a mere lunch. There's more fun to be had in Jet's than any bar in the Cotswolds.
Maybe they'll send over the overflow. But Cheltenham at home will never be the same again. Our very good friend Dr Louis O'Carroll died tragically after an accident last Friday night.
Louis was a consultant psychiatrist and a very brilliant man. The town is a vale of tears, for Louis was loved by everyone.
He was one of us, a townie. A quick-witted quick-talker who loved a pint and a bet. For a man who achieved so much and helped so many he loved the simple life. He was a marvellous singer and above all a man who never said no to those who needed his help.
There's an ache that will never quite go away.
Our hero is no more. A non-runner at Cheltenham at home. So sorry Judy and James.
Louis loved this one.
A few years back, at our Cheltenham Gold Cup luncheon, the mother asked one of the old timers if he'd prefer "the brown soup or the chowder?"
The old boy was a mighty adventurer who in his day cycled to Dublin for an All-Ireland. He chose the chowder.
The man called me over for a private chat. "Billy," he said, as quiet as you could speak but still hear, "you'd want to throw out that oul chowder. There's a terrible taste of fish off it."