He was a runt in every sense of the word - lightweight, feeble and closer to the dimensions of a hare.
The wet ball of fur arrived into the world a shade more than three years ago with little pomp and ceremony in Raukawa, the foal untangled itself barely mustering enough energy to steady itself on its wobbly, spindly legs.
Breeder Don Gordon, without taking his eyes off the foal and mare Liberal, asked stud master Arthur Ormond: "I wonder if he's worth keeping?"
To which Ormond replied: "Oh, well, it'll be good for the mare who'll have someone to suckle."
Consequently Gordon kept the foal and aptly named him Survived.
The 3-year-old, sired by stallion Zed and sitting at 16.2 hands high, will line up in the 2200m Hawke's Bay Gold Cup at 3.36pm with Masa Tanaka in the saddle at the racecourse in Hastings tomorrow.
Hastings trainer John Bary prefers to label him as "an untapped horse".
"I'll know more about him after Saturday," Bary says of the chestnut gelding who has registered four wins and a second place from six starts.
In the last start Survived won the Group 3 Manawatu Classic, coming from last at the big turn at Awapuni to blow away the entire field.
The favourite tomorrow, the gelding will be on track for a treble of Bay premier races for Bary after Jimmy Choux nailed the 2010 Guineas and the 2011 Spring Classic here.
"If he pulls it off then we'll hope to bring him back for the Spring Carnival here for the Hawke's Bay triple crown.
"We think he's good enough to do the Cox Plate in Melbourne, too, where he'll hopefully go one better than Jimmy Choux [runner-up in 2011]" he says of Survived who'll be 4 years old.
With all the excitement surrounding Recite, Bary says Survived is a different beast.
"Recite's a natural speed machine, a powerful raw-boned filly with a big finish," he says of the 2-year-old who is "spelling in a paddock" at his Timoti Farms in Pakipaki before she returns in June as a 1000 Guineas prospect in Australia.
To put Survived in perspective, New Zealand Horse of the Year Jimmy Choux had clinched three Group 1 titles and pocketed owners Richard and Liz Wood $2.8 million at the same stage of the gelding's career.
"This [Survived] is the kind of horse which will get you out of the bed early. They are good," Bary says, drawing an analogy with people turning up at a park to watch a rugby player train early in the morning.
"He's a very relaxed and neat horse. You could say he's one of the boys.
"No matter what the wife tells you, size doesn't matter - speed does - when it comes racehorses," he says with a laugh.
Gordon bred his first foal in Waikato in 1954, selling the yearling to Hastings trainer Jack Ryan. He bred Mun Lee, voted the Filly of the Year in the 1970s, after winning 14 titles including the Group 1 Waikato Lion Brown in 1981.
Mun Lee came back to stud from a season in Australia but sustained internal injuries when another horse shunted it against a post.
"In 60 years I've been breeding horses I've never had a foal that developed and improved like Survived," he says.
"Even when he was a yearling I had fillies who were bigger than him."
Gordon didn't for a second think Survived would go on to become a racehorse of any description.
"I still can't believe it."
Another survivor who has proven pundits and scribes wrong, albeit in spurts, is Bary-trained The Hombre.
The 6-year-old gelding will have Dylan Turner in the saddle in the next race after the cup, the 1200m handicap Ocean Park @ Waikato Stud race at 4.11pm.
"He's not good enough to take to an Australian sprint," Bary says, eyeing a Queensland Group 3 race in the Australian spring over 1200m to 1400m.
"He's big and arrogant, just like he has been from day one.
"I've been doing a lot with him so we've had some great fun," he says of The Hombre, who had a runaway win in the $50,000 Hallmark Stud Newmarket Handicap at Ellerslie on Boxing Day last year.
In 2011, Bary set The Hombre for the rich Railway Stakes, where he finished second to Australian Atomic Force.