PHIL Bourke is hoping he won't have to wait 36 starts for Mister Haywood's next victory, after his veteran stable leader finally snapped his dry spell in the Parkes Elvis Championship.
Now the Abercrombie Dexter eight-year-old lines up in this Wednesday night's top-graded event at Bathurst Paceway, the Oberon Night 15 January Pace (1,730 metres), hoping to go back-to-back for the Blayney trainer.
That's going to be a big ask against higher graded competition but with the inside gate and a brilliant last-start performance there's every chance Mister Haywood can make his presence known.
Mister Haywood's return from a spell last month wasn't as smooth as Bourke had hoped for, with age becoming a factor in the gelding's recovery process.
He was outclassed in his first two starts back then got much closer when fifth at Dubbo on Boxing Day.
That was followed by the Parkes success, where Mister Haywood was not only racing back at his best but among a much more comfortable grade.
"We had a couple of bad starts towards the end of last season and had a tendon strain at Young. It was then eight months between starts and he took a bit longer to come up than I would have liked," Bourke said.
"He had a few race starts which we had to live with because we knew it would take him a little while to get back. It was only at that race win where he looked fully back to race trim.
"I said to Tom [Pay, driver] last start that if he's not 100 per cent then he's 99."
All other runners in Wednesday's race are further into their preparation compared to Bourke's horse.
Bernie Hewitt's The Mustang and Mat Rue's Misterfreeze command a lot of attention as the two highest rated horses in the race.
Bourke's daughter, Cindy, is making her first drive on Mister Haywood in over a year.
"I've put my daughter on because she put her hand up straight away after missing out on the start at Parkes. She missed that drive because she's only just come out of concession," Bourke said.
"He's a sneaky chance of a place. We're thinking The Mustang and Misterfreeze are the ones to beat.
"It's tough with these horses around the 70 to 80 rating. It's a choice of either going to Menangle or going to somewhere like Junee where you're going to draw the second line.
"We put him in here to check him out and see where he's at."
The last win for Mister Haywood, prior to his Parkes success, was at Bathurst back in April of 2019.
Last start's Parkes victory was the ninth of his career and the first away from Bathurst.
The top-graded event of the night starts from 8.05pm while the Bathurst meeting gets underway from 6.07pm.