A new cushioned whip is becoming mandatory for flat racing from 1 April, much to the delight of animal welfare groups. The whip is similar to one already used by jump jockeys and cuts down the risk of marking horses in races. Both whips have been developed in Ireland by Robert Patton of Old Mill Whips but the new flat whip is slightly longer to accommodate the fact that flat jockeys are often shorter than jump jockeys.

John Smith’s People’s Race short list announced

Two telephone engineers, a pawnbroker, a musician and a housewife have been shortlisted to ride in the John Smith’s People’s Race at Aintree on Grand National day (14 April). The participants are among 16 contenders aged between 23 and 48-years-old, who all applied to ride in the beginners’ race to raise money for charity. Competitors will now undergo an intensive personal training scheme in preparation for a final assessment at the end of March, when a final list of 10 jockeys will be selected.

Hedgehunter’s future is uncertain

Grand National winner Hedgehunter may well miss the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month, according to trainer Willie Mullins. The horse has already been ruled out of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday due to a knee problem.

Ultimately Hedgehunter is being aimed at this year’s Grand National. Three years ago he fell at the last fence but went on to win the race in 2005 and finished second last year.

Waley-Cohen sets sights on National

A win over hurdles at Newbury on Saturday with Liberthine could give jockey Sam Waley-Cohen his first Grand National ticket. Last year Waley-Cohen’s lack of experience prevented him from riding in the National, even though he has won over the National fences three times.

This year Waley-Cohen needs just one more win to be able to apply under the “exceptional” clause. Jockeys require 15 wins to be able to ride in the National but “in exceptional circumstances” jockeys who have ridden ten winners over hurdles and fences can ride in the race.

Noble Request out of action

On Thursday night promising hurdler Noble Request was ruled out for the rest of the season. The Betfred Million winner sustained a stress fracture of a bone above his hock, trainer Phillip Hobbs explained.