Former top Hunter Valley trainer-driver Keith McDeed will be after his first winner in more than 15 years when he steers Dennington Heights in race one at Newcastle Paceway on Saturday night.
The 64-year-old from East Maitland, well known for his achievements with 1993 Newcastle Mile champion Medowie Prince, returned to race driving last month with a fourth on Aaron Goadsby-trained A Gift From Heaven at the Broadmeadow track.
Although a regular racegoer, McDeed had not trained or driven a pacer in a race since 2004.
The comeback came after he started helping Goadsby work horses of a morning at his Singleton stables about 18 months ago.
"I had a lot injuries before and I just needed a break, I suppose, at the time as well and I thought I was finished," McDeed said of his time away.
"But when you start driving them again, it's always in the blood a bit.
"[Goadsby] asked if I could go give him a hand, and I was doing it a little bit tough at the time with a couple of personal issues, and it helped me along at the time.
"I had to get a stablehand licence anyway so I said I may as well get my driving licence too, just in case [stable driver] Guy [Chapple] gets suspended or he's away, and I can drive if I have to.
"It's not about driving every day or week, just when I'm needed."
McDeed said about 10 broken bones from falls across 40 years of driving pacers had taken its toll before his spell away but he was enjoying his time back in the sport.
He said part of the reason for his return was for his harness racing-mad son, Cameron, 13, who "had never seen me even work a horse".
Dennington Heights looks capable of delivering McDeed a first victory back when he starts from gate four in the opener of a 10-race program on Saturday night.
The five-year-old gelding was third at Newcastle on debut for Goadsby then a dead-heat winner at the track last week.
"It's no star but he's an honest horse," McDeed said.
"He's up in grade a bit tomorrow but he should go all right. But I don't know if he's entitled to be favourite.
"When he came to Aaron, he had a few problems, so he changed a bit of gear on him and worked him a bit different, and he seems to be a lot more settled in his races, so that's a plus."
McDeed takes the drive on Dennington Heights with Chapple away at Bathurst.
Chapple steered two-year-old filly La Cabeza Gem, trained by his son, Mitch, into next Saturday night's group 1 $100,000 Gold Tiara (1730m) final with an 18-metre heat win on Wednesday night.
The colts and geldings series, the Gold Crown, started with heats on Friday night.
Singleton trainer Dean Ingold's Samuel John, Ellalong trainer-driver Michael Formosa's Sneaky Peak, Maitland-trained Jackomondo (Peter Hedges) and Sunshine Pepper (Rod Atkins) were unplaced in their heats as favourites Rocknroll Runa, Tasty Delight and Lochinvar Chief won through to the final.