Paisley Park is closing in on a return (David Davies/PA)Emma Lavelle reports stable star Paisley Park in rude health as he prepares to  return to competitive action at Newbury next month.

The eight-year-old was the hot favourite to extend his winning sequence to eight by successfully defending his crown in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March – but he finished a well-beaten seventh, after which he was found to have an irregular heartbeat.

While the problem ultimately rectified itself, Paisley Park continues to wear a heart monitor during some of his work at home – and there has been no recurrence of the issue since he returned from a summer break.

Lavelle said: “Touch wood, everything has been brilliant since he came back in. I’m really happy with him, and everything seems to be happening the way it should.

“I think it (heart monitor) is a useful tool, just to make sure everything is as it should be.

“He had his first trip up the grass on Thursday and is loving life.”

With a defence of his crown in the Long Distance Hurdle first on Paisley Park’s agenda, Marlborough-based Lavelle is optimistic that he can bounce back to his brilliant best this term.

She added: “He’s really fresh and well – and funnily enough, he’s actually been easier to get fit this time around than he was last year.

“Newbury is very much the plan, and it would be nice if we can get a racecourse gallop into him at some stage, hopefully at Newbury.

“It would be nice to get him back on the track, just in case he has any nasty memories of racing from Cheltenham.”

It is set to be a big weekend for the team at Newbury next month, with De Rasher Counter also firmly on course to bid for back-to-back wins in the Ladbrokes Trophy.

De Rasher Counter wins the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury
De Rasher Counter wins the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (Nigel French/PA)

Following his victory of last year, De Rasher Counter ran in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham before being pulled up in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter, but he made a promising return when runner-up over hurdles at Newton Abbot a couple of weeks ago.

“I was absolutely delighted with him the other day,” said Lavelle.

“It was a fair effort, because he was trying to give two and a half stone to the horse that beat him (Sammylou) – and touch wood, he’s come out of that well.

“He looks great, and Newbury is very much the plan – he’s actually only 6lb higher than when he won the race last year, because of the way things worked out.

“It would have been nice to have kept stepping up. But nicer ground is important to him, and it was just bottomless after Newbury, and he never really got the chance to show his true ability.

“What that did do is bring him down a few pounds in the weights, so we’re probably not in a bad position going into the Ladbrokes Trophy this time around.”