King George saved but Kauto Star is made to wait for record

KAUTO STAR'S bid to land a record fifth successive William Hill King George VI Chase has been put on ice.

Paul Nicholls's brilliant chaser will have to wait until Kempton's next jumps meeting on Saturday, January 15 to go one better than Desert Orchid, who won the Boxing Day feature four times (1986, 1988-90).

The relevant parties acted quickly to save the King George and the Christmas Hurdle after both days of the festive fixture fell foul of the big freeze.

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The Sunbury track, with the help of the British Horseracing Authority, sponsors William Hill and the Levy Board, managed to re-schedule the two contests.

Kempton's managing director Amy Starkey said: "We are naturally bitterly disappointed to have lost the William Hill Winter Festival to the severe winter weather.

"Everyone at the racecourse did all that they could to get racing on, but the elements defeated us.

"However, we – and all of our partners within racing – are delighted that the two major races will be held on William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle day.

"Though it has not taken place at Christmas as we expected, the whole of racing can now start looking forward once again to Kauto Star's bid to win a record-breaking fifth William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.

"We will be making all the necessary arrangements for Saturday, January 15 and will make announcements about race times and admission prices this week."

The BHA will confirm the finalised details for both races in the next few days.

Kempton had done their best to stage yesterday's card but like the Boxing Day programme, had to admit defeat to the weather.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said: "The temperature got down to minus 7C overnight, a degree worse than we had been forecast.

"However, whereas we were forecast 1C and 2C during Sunday, it hasn't got above minus 2C and was still minus 5C in the middle of the morning.

"Not only are the protective covers still frozen to the grass, there is frost in the ground because of the longevity of these frosts.

"We would need daytime temperatures to be above zero quite early in order for the covers to be removed in time for the 11.50am start, but that just isn't going to happen.

"There is no chance of the frost coming out of the ground in time. Milder temperatures are not arriving, so even a contingency of considering racing on Tuesday isn't possible."

The weather continues to wreak havoc on Yorkshire racing, too, as the meeting at Wetherby was also abandoned.

Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson moved forward his intended 9am inspection following another finger-numbing night in the county.

Sanderson said: "We got to minus 4C at the track overnight and the course is still frozen solid.

"There was not enough of the advanced forecast warmth to give us a chance."

Meetings later in the week have also fallen by the wayside, with Leicester's card tomorrow another to be claimed.

Clerk of the course Jimmy Stevenson unsurprisingly found the course to have still been frozen upon inspection at 8.30am.

He said: "We got to minus 11C overnight and nothing has changed.

"There's still four inches of snow on the track and it's completely frozen."

Catterick's meeting scheduled for Wednesday was abandoned before Christmas and they will be reliant on a possible thaw to have any chance of their New Year's Day card going ahead.

The course remains covered in snow and with freezing temperatures over the weekend, it is hoped there is plenty of milder air through the week.

Cheltenham is the big meeting on New Year's Day and communications manager Andy Clifton is also hoping for a big upturn in temperatures.

He said: "We are currently covered in something like six inches inches of snow, and we are due to get no higher than minus 5C today.

"The next three or four days will determine what happens at the weekend. The forecast is not as encouraging as it was a few days ago, but we still have chances.

"It's probably too soon to say what our exact chance is –- in the next two or three days we will be in a much better position to start making predictions.

"The forecast has to be

accurate, or better than accurate, for us to have a chance. In the

next 36 hours, we need temperatures to be up and for the snow to melt.

"If it doesn't get as high as they forecast then we are struggling."

Meanwhile, Musselburgh's card for January 1 is subject to a 12noon inspection on Wednesday.

Acting clerk of the course Harriet Graham said: "It's not very good news at the moment.

"There could be another slight thaw, possibly on Tuesday, but it's then due to get cold again on Thursday and Friday.

"On that forecast, we would be struggling."