The Cheltenham Festival takes place between Tuesday 12 and Friday 15 March – here is a quick guide to the delights in store:
C is for Champion Hurdle day, the first day of The Festival and voted by horseracing fans as their favourite day of the year. The traditional roar as the horses break away for the first race at 1.30pm makes the Cheltenham Racecourse crowd one of the most famous and awe inspiring in the world of sport.
H is for Hospitality because The Festival is not only renowned for its sport but also where the jump racing clan gathers to eat, drink and enjoy the Craic. Half a million bottles or pints of beer will be consumed, along with 10,000 gallons of tea and coffee; 50,000 people will sit down to lunch and, if the burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches eaten were laid end to end, they’d stretch three miles.
E is for Each-Way, the method to back a horse to win or be placed in a race. Over half a billion pounds will be gambled over the four days of The Festival. The 240 on-course bookmakers will witness £4 million changing hands in the betting ring over the course of The Festival.
L is for Ladies day, the second day of The Festival during which the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase is run and fashions are to the fore. The third day is St Patrick’s Thursday which features the Ladbrokes World Hurdle as well as the charity race, the St Patrick’s Derby. The finale on Friday is Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup day.
T is for Transport because every conceivable form is used by the many tens of thousands of visitors who gather at the racecourse each day. The official Festival airline Ryanair flies throngs of racegoers from Ireland and train operators put on extra trains. There will be 30,000 cars and 2,000 coaches, while the 650 helicopter landings make the racecourse the busiest temporary airfield in the country.
E is for Enclosures of which there are three to choose from at The Festival – Club, Tattersalls and Best Mate. Ticket prices range from £25 to £85, with Cheltenham Gold Cup day always selling out in advance. Membership of the racecourse costs £320 for the season.
N is for Nicky Henderson, the most successful trainer of all time at The Festival. He sent out his first winner, See You Then, in the 1985 Champion Hurdle and last year created a record with an incredible seven winners from the 27 races. That took his overall standing to 46 winners, six clear of the former record holder, the late Fulke Walwyn.
H is for Hotels in Gloucestershire which fill with racing visitors during The Festival. Tourism bosses estimate that 10,000 beds are slept in each night of the week, ranging from four-star hotels to bed and breakfasts, helping to boost the event’s value to the local economy to £50 million.
A is for Amateur jockeys because both professional and part-time riders play their part in The Festival. The most famous amateur is Sam Waley-Cohen who rode Long Run to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup two years ago and aims to regain the crown in 2013. The top professional at The Festival since the Second World War is the current jockey Ruby Walsh with 34 winners.
M is for Money because almost a quarter of a million racecourse visitors will generate gate receipts of £7 million. They’ll also withdraw £1.5 million for their bets from 20 cashpoints at the racecourse. Prize-money for the 27 races approaches £4 million, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day worth £550,000 alone.