There’s no place like Cheltenham

A is for Atmosphere – The roar of the tapes going up for the start of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is enough to send shivers down the spine of the calmest of human beings. When the commentator mentions the hot favourite “is absolutely cruising” rounding the home turn, the noise carries you along.

B is for Betting – More than 250 bookmakers will be setting up their pitches on course in the various enclosures, taking an aggregate of around £1m per race. Add the action in Britain’s 8,862 betting shops, plus the telephone and online business, and it is estimated that in excess of £600m will be wagered on the 27 races over the four days. Who says we are in a recession!

C is for the Craic – No better way to celebrate what the Irish call the bonhomie than with a bottle of bubbly, and 20,000 empties will be heading for the bottle bank come Friday night.

D is for Don’t Drink and Drive – The police will be waiting for you on all the surrounding roads, so, unless there is a teetotaller in your party, hire a chauffeur.

E is for ‘Ell – As one jockey once described the famous Cheltenham hill. It might seem like heaven at the start of the ascent, but it’s a brutal climb from the last obstacle to the top, and so many dreams have been shattered in those tortuous final 100 yards.

F is for Freebies – Plenty of handouts at the gate through the week, with 1,000 special Centenary Bowler Hats given out to the first racegoers through the gates on tomorrow.

G is for Guinness – There is no racecourse in the world where you will see more of the “black stuff” consumed, and 220,000 pints of every Irishman’s favourite tipple will have been downed come close of play on Friday.

H is for Helicopters – 650 “choppers” are expected to land during the week, making it the busiest temporary airfield anywhere in the country, and that includes Silverstone on British Grand Prix day!

I is for the Irish – Cheltenham would not be the same without the massive representation from across the water, and in the last six years their winning haul has been 9-10-5-7-9-7, so punters take heed, you ignore the boys in green at your peril.

J is for Jockeys – So fearless, so brave and for 100 quid a ride. Would you do it?

K is for Kauto Star – A crowd favourite, Kauto will be going for his third Gold Cup and is aiming to become the first horse older than 10 to win the race since 1969.

L is for Ladies Day – Wednesday is for the fairer sex, and 5,000 goody bags will be given away to the ladies, who will also be able to participate in a Fashion Awards ceremony, when prizes include annual membership at a local spa.

M is for The Manager – Both Sir Alex Ferguson (Man United) and Harry Redknapp (Spurs) have runners during the week, and, together with the BBC’s John Motson, they rarely miss the chance to switch off at the Festival.

N is for Nightmare – ­­­The loos, especially the ladies, where the bladders are tested to their limits as the queues stretch half-way to Cleeve Hill.

O is for Outsiders – Be prepared for the odd surprise package - favourites don’t always win, remember Norton’s Coin silencing the packed stands when landing the Gold Cup at odds of 100-1 in 1990.

P is for Paddy’s Day – Thursday is the day when the Irish celebrate St Patrick, and the shamrocks will be out in force with Irish dancers entertaining in the enclosures, and, doubtless, the odd rendering of Danny Boy!

Q is for Queen’s Hotel – The most famous hostelry in the town and down the posh end, where champagne costs an arm and a leg but the craic is so good that if you’ve backed a winner or two, who gives a Donald!

R is for Ruby Walsh – Top jockey at the meeting for the last three years, and he is favourite to retain his crown. You can rest assured that the Kaiser Chiefs hit “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby” will be bellowing over the tannoy if he succeeds.

S is for Shopping – 80 stands can be found in the Tented Village, selling everything from wellies to wine, silverware to Spanish properties, books to binoculars. You could even treat yourself to a hand-made rocking horse.

T is for Tweed – Royal Ascot has its Morning Dress and posh frocks, but the NH Festival is all about tweed suits for the men, and included in the Fashion Awards’ prizes is a ladies coat from the Cousins Tweed Collection.

U is for Umbrellas – Hope we won’t need them, but the long-term forecast suggests that if we leave them behind on the Friday we might look like “the wally without the brolly.”

V is for View – Prestbury Park is one of the most beautiful racecourses in the world. Whether you’re on the balcony of a fifth floor box, or slumming it in the ring, the view is simply breathtaking.

W is for Winner’s Enclosure – The most hallowed place in jump racing, and a crescendo of noise greets every successful jockey, who will celebrate with a victory salute or a punch of the air as he enters the number one spot.

X is for X-rays – Jockeys accept that falling is part and parcel of the job, but let’s just hope that there won’t be any need for the x-ray machine to be used during the week.

Y is for You know it makes sense – Where else would any fan of jump racing rather be for these four days in March.

Z is for Zara Phillips – ­­­Rarely misses a Festival, and the Queen’s eldest grand-daughter might need to back a winner with her wedding to England rugby captain Mike Tindall taking place at the end of July.