A SPARKLING season that concluded with Paisley Park landing the prestigious Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham’s four-day festival will always be hard to top.

But Ogbourne-Maizey trainer Emma Lavelle has seeded the makings of an equally spectacular year after five-year-old bay gelding Hang In There landed the SkyBet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park on Sunday – beating Jamie Snowden’s previously undefeated Pacify to the post by three lengths.

A race that has previously been won by festival champions Dodging Bullets, Altior and Moon Racer, Hang In There’s performance at HQ is only a small part of what promises to be an exciting – and busy – year at Bonita Racing Stables.

Lavelle, whose husband Barry Fenton – a former jockey – acts as assistant trainer, has assembled a 70-strong army of equine talent for the coming months.

And while her showpiece seven-year-old Paisley Park will head to Newbury for his seasonal debut on Friday, November 29, Lavelle pointed out a number of horses to keep an eye on as the season develops.

She said: “Outside of Paisley Park, I like Fontsanta who jumped really well and had a nice introduction to chasing behind Champ at Newbury.

“He’ll leave that run behind him. We have a nice young horse named Namib Dancer who should’ve won at Wincanton but didn’t because he was too green.

“Hang In There is a tough horse too by Yeats. The other is De Rasher Counter, who will go for the Ladbroke.”

Lavelle compared training racehorses to raising children.

Each horse has their own specifically mapped out routine both at home and on the racecourse.

But the Wiltshire trainer’s biggest challenge this term will be ensuring her yard remains healthy.

Particularly off the back of this February’s equine influenza outbreak – which grinded the sport to a halt for six days – staying on top of horses’ health is of paramount importance.

Lavelle added: “You only need to be a couple of degrees under to take out the chance of winning a race.

“Horses are like children – if one picks up a sniffle, it will go around. If you can stay healthy throughout the year, you have a great chance of being successful.

“Last season was extraordinary, normally something stops the fairy tale.

“That day at Cheltenham in Thursday was the most amazing day. No one will be able to take what we achieved away from us.”