As changes to the Festival are being discussed, I would like to suggest some changes to the race program.
1. I am a big supporter of developing the pattern for mares. But, I would remove the Mares Novice Hurdle. At that stage of their career, the horses can run in the Supreme, Ballymore or Triumph.
2. Because there is a Grade 1 mares-only hurdle and (soon) a Grade 1 mares-only chase, I would remove the weight allowance from mares in the Grade 1 races that are open to geldings. At present, mares seem to be favoured by the conditions of open races.
3. The Festival - which is supposed to be the pinnacle of the sport - does not need three races limited to amateur riders. I would scrap the Kim Muir (see below) and make the NH Chase open to professional riders.
4. Certain races in the Festival program should be eliminated or restructured: - The Cross-country chase. A two-race cross-country program in Great Britain is not enough to support a championship race. - The Golden Miller Chase (aka the Marsh). These novices should have to run in the Arkle or RSA. - The Pertemps Final. There should be a 3 m handicap hurdle at the Festival, but the qualifier series for this legitimises cheating. Make it a standard 3 m open handicap hurdle. - The Plate. The whole first half of the season at Cheltenham is built around top 2 1/2 m handicap chases (the Paddy Power, the December Gold Cup). Having one at the Festival devalues them. - Mares Novice Hurdle. Not necessary - see above. - Kim Muir. A consolation race for the Ultima. Not needed. - Martin Pipe. A consolation race for the Coral Cup. Not needed.
My view is that the Cheltenham Festival should focus on quality over quantity and, wherever possible, encourage the best horses to race each other on fair terms. The program should encourage this, not dilute competition.