Boxing Day schedule taking a battering from the elements

The Boxing Day sporting programme has been badly affected by the Arctic conditions which are gripping Britain.

Fixtures across the country are falling rapidly as pitches and racecourses freeze in the sub-zero temperatures.

The Boxing Day card at Wetherby Racecourse was cancelled yesterday after the course failed a lunchtime inspection.

And of the the 11 race meetings scheduled to go ahead in Britain and Ireland on one of the busiest days in the calendar, only three remain, although that surviving trio is headed by the top-class fixture at Kempton, which is due to play host to Kauto Star's bid to win a fifth successive William Hill King George VI Chase.

Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Bradford City will not be in action on Boxing Day, with the Owls not set to play again until they visit Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town on January 3.

Their trip to Tranmere on Sunday is off due to a frozen pitch at Prenton Park, but the following home games against Yeovil Town on December 28 and Peterborough United on New Year's Day have already been postponed on advice from the city council after the freezing temperatures led to pipes bursting in the toilets and refreshment sites on all stands within Hillsborough.

Rotherham's trip to Stockport fell victim to a frozen pitch and Valley Parade, where Bradford were scheduled to host Chesterfield, is in a similar state.

York City's Bootham Crescent will undergo a pitch inspection today ahead of their scheduled Blue Square Bet Premier fixture with Gateshead on Sunday.

Leeds Carnegie's Boxing Day trip to Newcastle in rugby union's Aviva Premiership has been rescheduled for Monday at 3pm.

The 24-hour delay has been ratified by Premier Rugby to allow for warmer weather to clear the Kingston Park pitch of snow, which is the major problem in the north east.

Two Premiership games have already fallen, with leaders Northampton's trip to Gloucester and Bath's game with Exeter both off.

At Kempton, where Tony McCoy is expected to ride Kauto Star, clerk of the course Barney Clifford has seen his early-week optimism evaporate following temperatures that refuse to rise.

Some of the covers on top of the course have now frozen to the ground and Clifford has announced a noon inspection, although further severe frosts are forecast.

"Temperatures got up to just above zero today, but it is still bitterly cold," said Clifford yesterday. "There is more cover visible than there is snow, but in places, the covers are stuck to the grass.

"The wind-chill factor this morning was measured at minus 6.5C.

"The forecast is not too bad (overnight), getting down to minus 3C.

"It's then minus 5C going into Christmas Day and minus 6C at dawn on Boxing Day.

"With the covers stuck to the track, there's not a lot you can do."

Wetherby will inspect at 10am today in the hope that their card for Monday can still go ahead, while Catterick inspect at 10.30am for their card on Tuesday.