The Cheltenham Festival, held at Cheltenham Racecourse in the south west of England, is almost upon us. This is the world's premier National Hunt (hurdles and jumps) race meeting and takes place over four consecutive days from March 10th.

In the European racing community, there's an unprecedented amount of interest in the meeting. This interest is most notably from the host country but also from Ireland. Each year, hundreds of thousands of racing fans make their way over from the Emerald Isle to descend on Cheltenham to cheer on the Irish contingent of horses.

This is a friendly rivalry and the Irish-trained horses always punch above their weight. They usually win somewhere in the region of 40-50 per cent of all the races at the meeting. But Paul Nicholls is the trainer to beat.

Students of horse racing analysis and tips from throughout the British Isles and beyond get their eyes down to try and decide who's going to win what races. They are also on the lookout for what the different bookies have on offer in the way of free bets.

Each day of the meeting includes a Champion's event race. This commences with the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, the World Hurdle on Thursday and the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup itself on the Friday, which is run over three miles, two-and-a-half furlongs.

Gambling is completely legal in the UK, with hardly any restrictions compared with the U.S. Each year, hundreds of millions of pounds are stakes on the races at the Festival and this year will be no different.

For visitors from the USA, this is a beautiful part of England to visit at any time of year, as it is the gateway to the Cotswolds. This is an area of breathtakingly beautiful and quintessentially English countryside. But if you want to find somewhere to stay with relative ease, just avoid the Festival meeting.

If you are racing fan, though, you'll definitely know all about Cheltenham anyway.