The world-famous Derby race could be held in the evening in future in a bid to boost falling television ratings - if the Queen approves.

Johnno Spence, spokesman for Epsom Downs Racecourse, said it is currently considering moving the race’s time slot to help increase Channel 4’s viewing figures for the flat-race.

The peak TV audience for the Derby last month was 1.55 million - less than half when the race was shown on the BBC.

But he said the racecourse does not believe declining viewing figures are indicative of a drop in the race's popularity and ruled out any suggestions it may move back to being held on a Wednesday to attract more racegoers.

Mr Spence made the comments after Rupert Trevelyan, the racecourse’s managing director, gave an interview to The Times in which he said it is looking to "innovate".

He told The Times: "The broadcasters tell us that every hour later could be worth an extra million viewers."

The Derby was traditionally held on a Wednesday, but moved to its Saturday slot 20 years ago.

Some believe a return to a Wednesday would boost the popularity of the event - a claim Mr Trevelyan dismissed.

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He said: "In the paid stands, we had the biggest crowd ever this year, so that view is misguided."

Mr Spence said: "There is no evidence to suggest the Epsom Derby was not as popular as it was. 

"There is a problem with viewing figures for major race meetings shown on Channel 4 across the board and figures have gone down since the switch from BBC. It is disappointing.

"But all the statistics show the idea of London and the rest of the country shutting for people to go to the Derby on a Wednesday is never going to be realistic again.

"Over 100,000 people attended the Derby this year, the best ever figure we have had.  It’s all going in the right direction. 

"We have looked at options of having a later starting time for the Epsom Derby itself. 

"We are always looking at ways to refresh it and try to give it the best chance for the audience figures to increase.

"The attendance of the Queen is integral.  The fact she flew back from France to be there this year says it all really. 

"Nothing will happen with regards to decisions on the times without consulting Buckingham Palace."

After this year's Derby, Caroline Baldock, ex-professional flat jockey and trainer, said: "The Derby is being systematically gelded. Taking it from a Wednesday to the Saturday was a big mistake. 

"Saturdays in June are far too busy for the general public to give it a second glance.

"I am not a conspiritory theorist, but I do wonder if the dumbing down of the Derby and all that it means is part of a long-term plan.

"I am sure that racehorse training is quietly being fazed out in Epsom."

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