Disappointing decrease in entries for Derby

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The Derby, suffering in popularity with both racegoers and off- course punters, has also been slighted by owners. Next year's Classic has attracted the lowest number of entries for the race since the entry date was put back for the 1992 race in order to ensure a larger pool of entries and prize-money.

A total of 554 horses - at a cost of pounds 250 - made yesterday's initial entry stage, a figure 10.6 per cent down on the corresponding total of 620 published a year ago for the 1996 Derby.

Nevertheless, Edward Gillespie of United Racecourses said: "It's a nice pool of horses to work with and we are now looking at the first pounds 1m Vodafone Derby, which has always been our target for next year. Our job now is to make international owners aware that if they are not in the race now, they can make an entry in March 1997 at the three-year-old stage."