Doncaster has to admit defeat in futile battle to beat the elements

IT was, perhaps, the closest thing to a racing certainty in Yorkshire this week – the abandonment of Doncaster's two-day jumping fixture after the South Yorkshire racecourse was left under around a foot of snow.

Town Moor officials bowed to the inevitable yesterday and admitted that cross-country skiing was the only sport likely to take place on the track in the near future.

The loss of racing on both Friday and Saturday is another blow to National Hunt racing in the region – the big freeze has already claimed cards at Wetherby and Catterick.

And next Tuesday's meeting at Catterick is already in doubt; the North Yorkshire course is still covered by six inches of snow.

Doncaster's disappointed managing director Mark Spincer is hopeful that the British Horseracing Authority will allocate substitute fixtures in time.

But he says there is absolutely nothing that the racecourse, and wider industry, can do until the Arctic-like weather relents.

"We still have eight or nine inches of snow on the ground, and more in places," said Spincer. "And, although it is due to be a bit warmer for the rest of the week, there's another cold blast forecast for next week. We've asked the question about a replacement fixture but we can't do anything until we are rid of the snow."

Meanwhile today's valuable Peterborough Chase card at Huntingdon has been postponed, with the Cambridgeshire track now hoping to stage the fixture on Sunday.

The Peterborough Chase, one of the most prestigious events for middle-distance chasers, had been a long-term target for North Yorkshire trainer Ferdy Murphy's stable star Kalahari King.

But, while Murphy welcomes the flexibility that is being shown by the racing authorities, he is likely to run Kalahari King in Saturday's Tingle Creek Chase at Cheltenham, a race delayed by a week following the abandonment of last weekend's Sandown card,

While the field will be ultra-competitive – it is headed by the brilliant Master Minded, the two-time Champion Chase winner – there is every likelihood that Cheltenham will race tomorrow and on Saturday, while an element of doubt continues to surround Huntingdon's prospects.

"We weren't going to run in the Tingle Creek Chase, because he doesn't enjoy Sandown, but when it moved to Cheltenham we changed our minds," said Murphy.

"On form, he should only be third or fourth against the likes of Master Minded but he's been pleasing me at home and he'll run."

YORK Racecourse has again landed the title as the North's leading racecourse – for the 21st consecutive year.

In a vote by the Racegoers Club, the Knavesmire also recorded the highest number of marks for any Flat racecourse in the UK.

Cheltenham, the home of National Hunt racing, took the overall poll in a photo finish.

York chief executive William Derby said: "We are thrilled and honoured to have received so many votes from the members of the Racegoers Club.

"It was a tremendous year of racing at York with some fabulous action on the track, record breaking attendances and some lovely sunny summer weather which are warm memories from what is a very snowy Knavesmire. We will keep working hard to try to earn our 22nd title."

In another endorsement of Yorkshire racing – when the snow clouds permit – Wetherby was named as the best small racecourse in the North.

Chief executive Jonjo Sanderson said: "It's fantastic to be awarded this accolade and the fact it's voted for by such a large number of genuine racing fans makes it an even bigger honour because these are people who go racing regularly so they have an unrivalled understanding of what makes a racecourse stand out from the crowd."

Christopher Tetley, the long-standing managing director and clerk of Thirsk Racecourse, is to step down after 25 years in charge.

"Like a number of racecourses in recent years, with careful investment Thirsk has evolved into a modern, thriving and diverse business and leisure venue and I am delighted to have played a part in this success," said Tetley. "I believe that now is the right time for me to step aside as managing director."

Kauto Star heads 24 remaining entries in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The Christmas highlight has been won by Paul Nicholls's star chaser for the last four seasons and he would beat Desert Orchid's record with a fifth success.

He returned to action this season with a victory at Down Royal and is a short price to claim the Boxing Day showpiece.

There were no surprises among the six withdrawals, which were Captain Cee Bee, Catch Me, Kempes, Massini's Maguire, Weird Al and Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander.

Nicky Henderson has a strong team on paper with Burton Port, Long Run, Riverside Theatre, Mad Max and Punchestowns still engaged.