Klairon Davis passed away earlier this week at 29 years of age. A life well lived and a happy retirement well earned.Klairon Davis was the horse who had a huge impression and importance as regards my own journey as a horse racing enthusiast. Klairon Davis came along at a time when I was really getting interested in the game properly. There would be highs and lows along the way as I followed Klairon Davis all the way. Klairon Davis climbed to the top of this great sport. As Klairon Davis did so he went into my heart with his ability and courage. There are two pictures of Klairon Davis in my house, one in the kitchen and the other in my own office. I would especially in the run-up to Punchestown and Cheltenham look at them, it always makes me smile.
Klairon Davis first came to my attention in 1993. I was a follower of Arthur Moore having liked horses such as Have A Barney and Joyful Noise. 1993 was the novice hurdle season for Klairon Davis. I had noted him winning his bumper at Gowran easily. I was impressed with him having watched the race of course in a smoke-filled betting shop on the way home from a match. Klairon Davis went into Novice hurdles avoiding the big meetings. Klairon Davis racked up three impressive wins over hurdles at Navan, Thurles, and Naas. Klairon Davis arrived at the Fairyhouse festival at Easter having raced four times that season winning four times. Klairon Davis would have the first of many battles with Sound Man at Fairyhouse. Sound Man had run in the Supreme at Cheltenham and gone off favourite. I wanted to be with Klairon Davis all day long. I had a reasonable bet on Klairon Davis who won with plenty in hand from Sound Man. Klairon Davis marched on to the Punchestown festival, who was once again victorious. Klairon Davis completed his novice hurdle season undefeated. There was the brief talk of staying over hurdles, however, Arthur Moore decided the future was over fences for Klairon Davis.
The novice chase campaign of Klairon Davis got underway at Tipperary. It did not go to plan with Klairon Davis falling early on and victory going to Idiots Venture trained by a bloke called Aidan O'Brien I wonder what happened to him? Klairon Davis got off the mark over fences at Navan in November 1994. Klairon Davis then clashed with old rival Idiots Venture at Punchestown at the end of November. Klairon Davis looked set for victory before belting the last allowing Idiots Venture to win by 2 lengths. The Grade 1 Dennys Gold Medal chase was next on St Stephens Day at Leopardstown's Christmas festival. Sound Man went off favorite yet again and yet again Klairon Davis beat Sound Man. Klairon Davis got up very late to beat Winter Belle by a head. It made my Christmas I was delighted. The year changed, I went into 1995 very hopeful about Klairon Davis winning the Arkle at Cheltenham. The Irish Arkle was before that and it went to Klairon Davis winning by ten lengths going off at 5/2. It was like finding money on the street.
The Arkle day dawned at Cheltenham, Klairon Davis went off 7/2 Fav. My confidence and belief was total in Klairon Davis winning the Arkle. The rivalry with Sound Man continued, Sound Man would prove to be the biggest rival on the day. Klairon Davis was always in touch traveling well through the race. Klairon Davis and Sound Man jumped the second last as one settling down to fight out an epic finish. Klairon Davis jumped the last just in front, Franny Woods lost his stick and had to ride hands and heels on the run in. Klairon Davis stuck at it pulling enough out to win by a half-length. Klairon Davis appeared to relish the Cheltenham hill a fact that was not lost on me and a fact I absorbed.I was ecstatic Klairon Davis had done it. My belief had been confirmed that Klairon Davis was potentially top class. I was already thinking about March 1996 and the Queen Mother. The end of the 1994/95 season was a let down for Klairon Davis. A third-place finish at Punchestown beaten two lengths without regular jockey Franny Woods. A fourth-place finish at Auteuil finished the season out.
The 95/96 season started for Klairon Davis at Tipperary with a victory over Merry Gale by six lengths. It was to Punchestown next in November 95 for the race now known as the John Durkan. Klairon Davis was an early faller as was 1996 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Call. A good quiz question perhaps. Klairon Davis went to Leopardstown and found himself on the floor again this time behind Imperial Call. The number of falls for Klairon Davis was starting to make people look elsewhere for the Queen Mother winner. I remained optimistic a clear round before Cheltenham and Klairon Davis could still do it in my view. Klairon Davis went to Punchestown next where he got beaten a neck giving 20 pounds to Brockley Court and Charlie Swan. I was happy with that, it was straight to Cheltenham for Klairon Davis. I was convinced Klairon Davis was a better horse then Sound Man and Klairon Davis would show it again at Cheltenham
I approached the Queen Mother thinking Klairon Davis was overpriced.I began backing Klairon Davis every week for the 6 weeks up to the race at 12/1 and 11/1. I was booked to go to Cheltenham for Gold Cup day only which was the Thursday than during a three-day festival. Klairon Davis was running on day two. My thought process was simple as it often is when you are young. Klairon Davis was going to pay for me to have a great day in Cheltenham. I began sharing my confidence in Klairon Davis with those around me, they latched on to it and also started backing Klairon Davis. The day arrived 13-3-96 Queen Mother Champion Chase day. My faith was strong still, convinced Klairon Davis was better than Sound Man the 11/8 Fav. I believed The Arkle form from 95. I did respect Viking Flagship the reigning champion. There was nothing else to do I backed Klairon Davis again at 10/1 at lunchtime on the day of the race. I was working at the time so couldn't see the race. I had to listen to it on the radio. I was also working with my Dad and brother at the time. The three of us were going to Cheltenham the next day together. Dad was with Sound Man as always, my brother with Klairon Davis. I had the biggest bet of my life at that stage on Klairon Davis. I thought about the other people who I had told to back Klairon Davis. It was a win bet so it was total victory or total annihilation there would be no in between. I took a deep breath and away the horses went.
We were listening to the race on RTE radio. The commentary centered around Viking Flagship and Sound Man. From an early age, I was thought to respect the open ditch at the top of the hill at Cheltenham. I still do to this day.It is a game changer of a fence. As they approached the fence it was Sound Man, Klairon Davis, and Viking Flagship. The tempo increasing, the tension almost unbearable for the radio listeners. The dreaded call came from the commentator Klairon Davis a bad mistake. My heart sank for a second. The commentator then said Francis Woods has gathered Klairon Davis up and he is still in contention. I gathered myself up as well!! Sound Man pressed on with Viking Flagship and Klairon Davis in hot pursuit. The trio all got a bit low at third last, but there was only a couple of lengths between them now. They jumped the second last Sound Man and Viking Flagship preseed on and according to the commentator, Klairon Davis had work to do. Sound Man and Viking Flagship were strides for stride the commentator calling them constantly. As they approached the last the commentator for the first time in what seemed an eternity said Klairon Davis is running on strongly and mounting a challenge. As the three horses approached the last fence, Klairon Davis was challenging for the lead. Klairon Davis landed running and we were away.The commentator said, "with an electric turn of foot Klairon Davis settles the Queen Mother, Klairon Davis going three four five lengths clear". "KLAIRON DAVIS WINS THE QUEEN MOTHER" It was absolute delirium for me and my brother. Klairon Davis had done it, he had rewarded my faith and would send me to Cheltenham well armed for my first visit. The next day at Cheltenham I managed to back Imperial call and Elegant Lord with my Klairon Davis winnings. I did not want those two days in 1996 to end. They were magic moments.
The 95/96 season ended with a fourth place of four at Aintree. Klairon Davis bounced back with a vengeance to claim the grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival by 10 lengths from Sound Man. The 96/97 season started on a low three races three defeats. There was a win before Cheltenham at Punchestown. I just felt Klairon Davis had not looked the same going into Cheltenham 1997. I supported him in the Queen Mother, however, Klairon Davis finished fourth beaten three lengths by Marthas Son. Once again Klairon Davis bounced back with a vengeance to claim the grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival thrashing Big Matt by 8 lengths. It was to be the last time Franny Woods rode Klairon Davis the jockey having been injured which ended his riding career. I thought Woods and Klairon Davis were a great partnership. The loss of Woods I think had an effect on the remainder of the career of Klairon Davis. Of course its entirely possible that Klairon Davis days at the very top had come to an end in any event. The 97/98 campaign saw Richard Dunwoody take over. There were two wins before Cheltenham both at Fairyhouse including the first of three Normans Grove chase wins. The Queen Mother 1998 saw the brilliant One Man get his day in the son and Klairon Davis trail in fourth. The season ended with Klairon Davis crashing out at the second at the Punchestown festival in search of a grade 1 hat-trick at the meeting.
The twilight of Klairon Davis career saw him continue to race until May 2001, often competitive as well as often placing. I used to go the betting shops to watch him race. I tried not to miss any of his races. The last victory for Klairon Davis came on 28-1-2001 when he completed his Normans Grove hat trick. Klairon Davis went off and 11/2 outsider in a three horse race. I roared him on in the betting shop for old times sake.It gave me a great kick to see him win again. I was delighted for Klairon Davis that day. Klairon Davis finished with a career record of 20 wins from 58 starts
I headed to the Punchestown festival last year and saw Klairon Davis in the parade of champions it was like seeing a really good friend who you have not seen for some time. I never took my eyes off him the whole time he was in the parade ring. Klairon Davis will always be the horse who got me going in this great game. Of course, there have been better two-mile chasers then Klairon Davis. I couldn't care less for me Klairon Davis is very special I will never forget him. Klairon Davis was a big horse for Irish race fans going to Cheltenham at a time when Cheltenham success was thin on the ground for Ireland. Klairon Davis and others in the mid-1990s ushered in the modern Cheltenham era for Irish racing. Klairon Davis is commemorated in Navan with a novice chase bearing his name in early December. Klairon Davis is remembered by me personally every day. Go well old friend Klairon Davis ,thank you.