PETER Molony, the leading National Hunt producer and key figure in the Honeysuckle story, has hit out at potential changes he says could be in the offing for Cheltenham’s Mares’ Hurdle, describing possible restrictions on Grade 1 winners in the race as “absolutely crazy”.

The Goffs agent and racing manager to prominent owner Kenny Alexander voiced serious concerns regarding “a new proposal that would mean no mare who had won a Grade 1 in the previous 13 months would be eligible to run in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival”.

Such a rule would have prevented this year’s winner, Lossiemouth, from running in the Mares’ Hurdle and would have pushed connections towards a tilt at the Champion Hurdle.

Molony insists such a development would “undermine not only the Mares’ Hurdle but also the whole mares’ programme”, and it would represent a “knee-jerk reaction” to Lossiemouth’s exploits.

When contacted about reports of the proposal, a spokesperson from The Jockey Club told The Irish Field that the organisation is “only discussing some initial options at present and remain some way from making any final decisions” regarding the Festival as a whole.

Molony told The Irish Field: “It’s crazy stuff, an absolutely crazy idea. We’ve been working for the last 20 or 25 years to build this mares’ programme, which has not only been of benefit to the mares themselves and the trade of mares, but also the entire industry. Look at the quality mares that have come out of it to benefit the racing product so much.”

The Rathmore Stud owner added: “When I was growing up and starting off, there wasn’t a penny for mares. Look what has happened in the meantime. You’ve got the likes of Honeysuckle, Annie Power, Epatante and so on - none of which would have come to race in Britain or Ireland without this programme.

“If you wanted to run a horse in the Honeysuckle Mares Novice Hurdle at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, you’d think twice under this proposal because should you win there, you’re ruled out of running in the following season’s Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. The same applies to the Mares Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival - would you really want to run your mare there if this came to pass?”

If such a rule were to be implemented in the race conditions for the 2025 Mares’ Hurdle, four of the top five in the betting would not be eligible to race: Lossiemouth, Brighterdaysahead and the Alexander-owned pair of Jade De Grugy and Kargese.

Molony added: “As I understand it, this is a proposal that is gaining traction with the powers that be. While I gather that the proposal will still have an element of consultation to come, I think this is just a knee-jerk reaction to one mare this year, Lossiemouth. The winner of the Mares’ Hurdle wouldn’t even be allowed to try to defend their title the following season under this proposal. People need to use their heads.”

A spokesperson for The Jockey Club spokesperson said: “It has been in the public domain for some time that we are looking at a wide number of aspects of the Cheltenham Festival following this year’s fixture.

“Some possible tweaks to the race programme form one element of what is being considered, and we’re currently seeking the views of a variety of stakeholders as we weigh up our options.

“We have a set process for how these discussions are conducted and our objective will always be to listen to the wide variety of views on offer and make a decision which is in the best overall interests of the Festival and the sport of jump racing.

“We should stress that we are only discussing some initial options at present and remain some way from making any final decisions."