Emma Lavelle will aim De Rasher Counter at next year’s Randox Grand National as the top staying chaser returns to training this season.
De Rasher Counter has been off the track with a tendon injury since a solitary run over hurdles at the start of the previous campaign.
The nine-year-old was a tenacious winner of the hugely competitive Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in 2019 but was then a well-beaten fourth and pulled up in two subsequent runs that winter – in Grade Two company at Cheltenham and under top weight in the Midlands Grand National.
Lavelle is delighted to have him back at her Wiltshire yard, but will be patient before choosing an initial target en route to Aintree.
“He came back in yesterday, and it is hugely exciting having him back in,” she said.
“He has been in Wales trotting up hills, hardening his legs off, having picked up an injury last season.
“The plan for this season will be geared around the Grand National. We will scan his legs and if everything is all right, we will be able to start cantering with him.
“He will have a decent level of fitness from what he has been doing. If the ground is not bottomless, hopefully we can start him in January and have a couple of runs before the National.”
Lavelle is mindful that, although De Rasher Counter is a three-times winner in heavy ground, it may be best to steer clear of especially testing conditions.
She added: “I think we will keep all options open, and I’m not saying we won’t run him over hurdles, but I think it will depend where the races are, what the ground is like and what makes sense.
“Everything will work back from the Grand National, though.
“The ground in the Cotswold Chase was bottomless, and he is a lovely-moving horse and he probably doesn’t want it like that. We had to have a crack at it, to see what the right route was.
“The Ladbrokes Trophy is a competitive handicap, and they put a lot into running in races like that. He was a progressive novice the season before that, and the Ladbrokes probably took more out of him than we gave him credit for.”