After his last race he could hardly walk into his box. I never thought he would even run at Cheltenham, never mind win

ARTHUR MOORE, trainer of Klairon Davis

THE aficionados had come to support Viking Flagship, winner of the race for the past two years, known as the bravest of the brave; the heavy punters were on Sound Man, trained by Eddie O'Grady and ridden by champion jockey Richard Dunwoody. When the pair rose together at the second-last in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, the two-horse battle seemed certain. Enter Klairon Davis.

Priced at 9-1 and ridden by Francis Woods, this Irish challenger, a tough seven-year-old whose career was almost ended by a serious leg injury, was about to spoil the party.

Despite having put a foot in the ditch second time round and clipping three other fences, he was the one with strength to spare.

Up the hill he came, leaving the Flagship stuck at half-mast and the Man suddenly unsound.

``This was the horse they all forgot about,'' declared Woods. ``He is best in the spring and he will win here again.''

The successful trainer, Arthur Moore, enthused: ``This is the greatest thrill of my racing life. He is a fantastic horse to train, he is so brave it is unbelievable.

``After his last race at Punchestown he could hardly walk into his box. He was on three legs. I never thought he would even run at Cheltenham, never mind win.''

Ireland's champion jockey Charlie Swan could hardly hide his disappointment at being beaten on Viking Flagship.

``I thought we had seen off the winner. When he landed in the ditch on the far side I was sure that was the end of him.

``However, my horse had no answer to the late challenge.''

Dunwoody said of Sound Man, backed down to 11-8. ``He just made too many mistakes.''

So, it was Moore and his team who went up to the Royal Box to collect the trophy from the Queen Mother herself, 95-years-young and radiant in royal blue. ``What a thrill for me to meet such a gracious lady,'' said the young jockey.

Swan had earlier celebrated his tenth Cheltenham success, partnering Urubande (8-1) to a convincing success in the Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle. This was the first British success for Irish training sensation Aidan O'Brien.

His jockey admitted afterwards that Urubande had very nearly run out at one stage. ``I think he saw a car - he is a big, headstrong horse who is still very green.''

But it was not altogether a happy day for O'Brien. He withdrew Hotel Minella from the Coral Cup and flew the horse back to Ireland before there could be any vet's examination.

``He ran on Tuesday but did not eat or drink a thing last night so I couldn't run him,'' explained the trainer.

The stewards decided against accepting that excuse and have referred the matter to the Jockey Club.

The Cheltenham punters might have been justified in referring the form book to those responsible for enforcing the Trades Descriptions Act.

Favourite Time For A Run went for a slow stroll in the Coral Cup, Mr Mulligan, the shortest-priced of them all, was caught two from home by 7-1 shot Nathen Lad in the Sun Alliance Chase, and Class of Ninetytwo could not compete with Loving Around, another Irish winner in the amateur rider' chase.

The bulge in the bookmakers' wallets was ever more pronounced.