Altered Image put the horrors of a nasty injury behind him when outclassing his rivals in the $250,000 group two Coupland's Bakeries Mile (1600m) at Riccarton yesterday.
Altered Image, who won the group one Levin Classic (1600m) in 2008, fell in last year's group one Mudgway Partsworld Stakes, injuring a tendon.
He needed stem cell treatment to repair the tendon and had a year away from racing but Altered Image left no doubt he was back with yesterday's emphatic win.
It was the first group win for Andrew Clarken, a Victorian whose partnership with Mike Moroney at Moroney's Matamata stables began in August, after Moroney's brother Paul stepped down.
Paul Moroney shared in the victory yesterday as a co-owner. He paid $20,000 for him at the New Zealand Bloodstock festival sale at Karaka, South Auckland, in 2007.
"The horse is a group one class horse," Clarken told Trackside TV after the race. The stable had bided its time with the 5-year-old Strategic Image gelding, giving him plenty of time to get over his injury.
Jockey Michael Coleman had to overcome the wide 16 barrier draw yesterday, but slotted Altered Image just off pacemaker Fritzy Boy and at the top of the straight the horse shot away from his rivals, easing down to win by two lengths from race favourite The Meista, with Hold It Harvey and a game Fritzy Boy just noses away in third and fourth.
"It was always going to be tricky from the draw," said Clarken. "We didn't give Michael any instructions, he slipped forward, sat outside the leader and the horse travelled lovely in the run and quickened when he asked him and he was too good."
Clarken praised Coleman, who was also a casualty in the Mudgway fall, after tearing a thigh muscle when another horse stomped on him. He had three months on the sidelines.
"When you have Michael on these races you go into them very confident because you know he gets the job done."
Coleman said he enjoyed a great ride on the $7.70 third favourite.
"I was pretty confident a long way out, he just travelled so beautifully.
"He's a great horse, when they get him right. He was just travelling so good turning for home, he was always going to quicken down beautifully. He's a smart one."
The Meista had challenged out wide but found the winner too good, while Hold It Harvey flashed home from the back of the field to claim third.
The well supported mare November Rain was slow away from her wide draw and never threatened, finishing ninth.
It was Altered Image's sixth win from 16 starts, and took his career earnings to $427,000. His winning time was 1min 34.30secs.