Jake Noonan, riding Undeniably, wins the Christmas Stakes at Caulfield on Wednesday. Photo: Getty Images
AS FAR as comebacks go, Lazarus - the New Testament figure who was raised from the dead in St John's Gospel - is usually the benchmark of choice, particularly where sporting revivals are concerned.
Undeniably, the impressive winner of the Christmas Stakes at Caulfield on Wednesday cannot quite match that extraordinary achievement. But according to Merv Harvey, the spokesman for the Mark Kavanagh stable, there might only be a short half-head in it given the life-threatening setbacks the sprinter has had to overcome over the past two years simply to stay alive, never mind win a listed race.
Undeniably gave apprentice jockey Jake Noonan his biggest win when he scored from Sea Lord and Youbolt. And Undeniably's victory provided a massive form reference to his stablemate Catapulted - who easily defeated him at his previous start - for the next feature sprint, the Standish Handicap at Flemington on New Year's Day.
''He [Undeniably] got crook on the way to Morphettville [in South Australia] - he got travel sickness really bad. He had the last rites read to him, and he came good,'' Harvey said.
''[He had] fluid on the lungs. He had a temperature of 40.5 - when they get to 40 normally you are in serious trouble. That wasn't the only problem. Once we got him over that, all the penicillin made him crook. It's been hard work, and we almost gave up a couple of times, but we knew he had talent.
''What do you do … give him to someone else to get him right? We knew he had the ability, we just had to persevere. It's good to see this horse back racing well.''
Noonan is close to outriding his city claim and he took another step towards that milestone when he won the next race on outsider Return Journey. What made the success even sweeter was that it was for his father, Mornington trainer Tony.
Earlier, the Darley camp unveiled another smart two-year-old who could be aimed at more taxing targets in the shape of Montsegur, a daughter of European sire sensation New Approach.
The Vlad Duric-partnered filly started at $7 and scored impressively, confirming trainer Paul Snowden's pre-race expectations. ''At home she has shown us plenty of ability. She handled herself well and won accordingly.''
Another two riders in good form were Craig Newitt and Chad Schofield, who both booted home doubles.
Newitt won in consecutive races on longshot Bells Of Troy ($31) for trainer Wendy Kelly and then on the well-backed Tariana ($3.50) for his main employer, Mick Price.
Schofield won for his boss, David Hayes, aboard Whisper Downs ($3.10) and then in the last for Clinton McDonald on Finishing Card ($2.25).