Mark Johnston labels Derby a 'very winnable' race as he queries entry system
Mark Johnston has called the Derby a "very winnable" race and intends to have more runners in the Classic following Dee Ex Bee's surprise second last year.
Speaking while running through his string for the RFO Flat Racing Guide 2019, Johnston said: "I think Dee Ex Bee's second in the Derby was an eye-opener.
"I realised the Derby was actually a very winnable race. It was a reminder that in racing you're not going to win if you're not in, and with a little bit more a focus we might even win the thing."
Dee Ex Bee was a 20-1 outsider but thoroughly surpassed expectations, staying on resolutely and finding only the Charlie Appleby-trained Masar too good.
Johnston said his opinion of the Derby being a "very winnable" race is due in part to an entry system which he believes weakens the quality.
"I've always said that the entry system works against the race," added Johnston, who last year became the winningmost trainer in British racing history. "If you have a 500,000gns Galileo yearling of course you stick them in the Derby, but when you're not operating in that league and buying cheaper horses, you don't want to spend that sort of money putting yearlings in."
The system requires connections to submit entries for the race on the first Tuesday in December of their horse's yearling year at a cost of £560 –18 months before runners line up at Epsom.
Johnston said: "The field is drawn from a very small number of horses – there's very few that get supplemented – and the system definitely makes it a less competitive race.
"I've only had five or six runners in the race throughout my career – that's sometimes less than Aidan O'Brien runs in one year. I'm going to wake myself up a bit and get a few more entries sorted and have a few more runners."
The North Yorkshire trainer has five horses entered in this year's Derby, but they have not yet seen the racecourse. Vintage Stakes winner Dark Vision, who does not hold an entry, is the shortest-priced Johnston-trained horse in the betting at 33-1.
The RFO Flat Racing Guide will be published on Friday, March 22 and can be purchased through the Racing Post shop.
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