Death of Klairon Davis – conqueror of Viking Flagship in an epic Champion Chase
Franny Woods has described his heroic 1996 Queen Mother Champion Chase-winning mount Klairon Davis as a “tiger” after the popular two-miler died at 29 years of age.
Trained by Arthur Moore, Klairon Davis had beaten the similarly hardy Sound Man in the previous year’s Arkle Trophy. When he returned to the Cotswolds in March 1996, he did so on the back of a defeat at Punchestown, after which he was left seriously lame.
However, Moore and his team nursed him back to health in time for him to secure his place among the Prestbury Park immortals.
In pulling clear of the hat-trick seeking Viking Flagship and Sound Man, he played a starring role in one of the most fondly remembered Champion Chases in recent times, an epic spectacle that featured three pugilistic sorts who thrived in the cut and thrust of what was a golden era for the two-mile chasing realm.
“Viking Flagship had a huge following for his pure toughness, and Klairon was a tiger as well,” Woods recalled. “They were like two fighters and riding him was some thrill. He was the quickest horse I've ridden and the one with the most class.”
A shuddering blunder at the ditch on top of the hill four-out looked to have fatally compromised Klairon Davis’s challenge in the Champion Chase, but he somehow came again.
“Lesser horses would have packed it in after that mistake, but within five strides he was back on the bridle travelling sweet and he galloped all the way to the line,” Woods added.
“He had that grit and determination to put his head down and get out of trouble. He was a fantastic horse and I was lucky enough to be on him on his biggest days.”
A first Irish-trained winner of the Champion Chase for ten years, Klairon Davis won five times at the highest level and 20 times in all, including twice when conceding weight all round under 12st in the Grade 1 handicap formerly known as the BMW Chase, now the Punchestown Festival’s two-mile championship event.
His last win came in January 2001 as a 12-year-old under Conor O'Dwyer when he beat the previous year’s Grand National winner Papillon at Fairyhouse.
“He was a great servant,” Moore said of his old warrior. “Pierre-Charles Le Metayer, a prominent bloodstock agent in France who was a great friend of mine but sadly died in 1999, bought him for me as a foal.
“Along with Organisedconfusion’s Irish Grand National win, the Queen Mother victory was definitely the highlight of my career, especially given how lame he had come back from his previous run at Punchestown.
"He made a brilliant recovery and we were quite hopeful on the day, because we knew we had him back right. He was the horse of a lifetime.”
Klairon Davis spent 17 years in retirement at the Killeen, County Meath home of his late owner Chris Jones, whose son and namesake had cared for him dutifully.
“It’s the end of an era for us,” Jones said on Wednesday. “He was part of the family here and he passed away peacefully on Tuesday night. What he achieved throughout his career was brilliant, and he had a great innings.
"There wasn’t as many of those top-quality horses around then in Ireland as there are now, so it was a very special time.”
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