You are on record saying that at the age of 11 it was your dream either to train racehorses or become Prime Minister. Why did you ditch the politics?

When I was young, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. She was a very strong woman who I thought was amazing.

Love her or hate her, she gave politics a different perspective, making everything seem possible.

But I don’t think politics is nearly as interesting now. There is too much grey, with all politicians fudging into the same area, whereas Mrs Thatcher stood out.

Fundamentally, I love horses and that’s the direction I chose.

Having started out training in 1998 aged 25, were you worried by your youth and inexperience?

I don’t think that you yourself are ever worried by that. Other people might have been.

I have been very determined from an early age and I think one of the reasons I started training when I did was that if it didn’t work out I was still young enough to go and do something else.

I knew I wanted to train, but not on a shoestring and if that had been the case I would rather not have done it at all.

I managed to get six together for a combined licence. Now we have 68 in.

Can you pick out the most significant lesson you learnt from your time at Toby Balding’s?

The most significant lesson anybody can learn from Toby is his ability to deal with people, owners, journalists, you name it. He just likes people.

The way he dealt with his owners was wonderful.

There might have been times when things weren’t going that well and he would always involve the owners in the best possible way and as a result they always stayed loyal.

Even after his recent illness there is very little he has forgotten and he is still the most lovely, lovely man.

One reason I started training when I did, at 25, was I could have done something else if it didn’t work out

How did you come to spend a season with ‘Shug’ McGaughey in Belmont?

I had been with Toby for about five years and I was at a point where I was treading water and I needed to do something different.

Toby suggested I should go to America and see what it’s like over there. I wanted to go to a big racetrack, but, not knowing anyone, eventually I was put in touch with Shug, arrived just with my suitcase and wondering what was in store.

I had a terrific time and met some great people. But it was not typical of working in an American yard because Shug was basically private trainer to Ogden Phipps, so the horses were absolutely fantastic, beautifully bred and if one went wrong another came in to replace it.

Ultimately, I went out there to see if training in America was something I wanted to do because it is a lot cheaper to set up; all you do is rent your barn and start training.

But I am English through and through and there was always the pull to come home.

Your assistant trainer Barry Fenton is also your husband. What are the pros and cons of this situation?

There are definitely pros and cons but the positives far outweigh the negatives. It’s never easy to live and work with somebody, there are always going to be moments when there is tension, that’s part and parcel of life.

Barry is very much a key member of the team and does a huge amount of work.

One of the main things is that he is always going to be able to question things, rather than think, ‘Oh, she’s the boss and I’m afraid to question her’. Look, we’re equal so he’s going to turn round to me and say: ‘I think you’re mad, we should do it this way.’ Whether I agree or not, it will stop me and make me think.

You always need somebody to make you do that.

You enjoyed plenty of success with Jack Doyle as your stable jockey but replaced him with Noel Fehily early in 2012. Why? And what is the position with stable jockeys now?

It is always a tricky situation. We had plenty of winners with Jack but I had a few owners who were a little bit questionable about using him.

Moreover, Noel had become available and, with no disrespect to Jack, Noel is a top-name jockey with years of experience and was a rider a few of my owners had wanted to use previously, so consequently were keen to get him into the yard.

After riding plenty of winners for us towards the end of last season Noel broke his leg at Aintree. So we started to use Dominic Elsworth.

Then Noel came back and said he was going to Charlie Longsdon, which came as a bit of a surprise.

We started using Dougie Costello as well as Dominic and the owners were keen to have a bit of consistency and use the best available. So that’s where we are.

How do you go about freshening up horses that have lost their way?

You notice those horses that seem to have lost interest and are going through the motions. We are lucky there is some lovely riding country here, so you can disappear and do something different with them.

Of course, there are some horses you’ll never get back. Pause And Clause is an example of a horse who gave his absolute all to win at Cheltenham and has struggled to get his enthusiasm back.

In fairness, this season he is coming back. Having dropped in the handicap and competing against lesser horses, he now thinks he is the best again.

There are lots of little things you can do to freshen them up, like move them to another box in the yard with a different outlook and perspective, or give them time out in a field for a complete change.

Pause And Clause is one of two Cheltenham Festival winners for Lavelle

What is the most difficult part of your job? And what gives you the most satisfaction?

Telling owners their horse has gone wrong is as disappointing for us as it is for them and it is just one of those parts of racing you hate. But injuries are inevitable.

You are going through such emotions yourself and then you have to go through them with the owner.

Satisfaction probably comes in two parts: when you look round evening stables and find nothing wrong with any of them.

Also, when you have a young horse you have brought along quietly and it goes and wins a big one.

One of the most satisfying this year is Court In Motion, who looked a very good novice finishing third in the Albert Bartlett, only to pick up a leg injury and miss last year.

Then he came out this time, got better and better and won his Grade 2 novice chase.

If you were in charge of racing, prize-money apart, what would you alter?

I’d try to work out a better handicapping system as I don’t think there is any logic in the way it is done.

There are plenty of horses whereby you can’t understand why they have gone one way in the handicap, and others that have gone in the opposite direction for no apparent reason. I sit in my office trying to fathom why someone’s horse has gone up 5lb when mine’s gone up 10lb.

I know the whole novice chase system is not right. What is incredibly frustrating is if you have a horse on 126 over hurdles you can’t run it in anything other than a 0-140 or an open novice chase; if they’re conditions races your horse can be so wrong at the weights.

Why can’t the handicapper drop it to 125 and let it in the banding below? A complete review of the handicapping system is badly needed.

There are the fantastic festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree, but how healthy is the rest of the sport?

Look at the sport overall and it is actually very healthy: the prices the horses are making at the sales are strong, National Hunt racing has a great following and the festivals are fantastic. But I think our biggest danger is complacency.

There is a definite shift of the money from the Quality Support Fund (QSF) being handed over to the Flat. Last year the QSF had a massive cut of money into the Flat, above the National Hunt.

There was a feeling that the Flat guys stuck to the tariff whereas we didn’t, therefore, were we as entitled to get as much money?

I know there are different factors involved with the two codes but I do think we should stand our ground and keep our eye on the ball.

You have saddled two Cheltenham Festival winners – Crack Away Jack and Pause And Clause. What does it mean to get on the scoresheet there?

Any winner at Cheltenham is magical and is something that can never be taken away from you. When you come into that amphitheatre, the applause makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

All the top trainers are trying to win those races and it is a great achievement to have a horse that is good enough and gutsy enough to win there.

I’d love to saddle a Gold Cup winner because it is the Blue Riband, but the most exciting race to win would be the Champion Chase as jumping and galloping is so important.

Sometimes just a good stayer wins the Gold Cup, but the Champion Chase is very rarely won by anything other than a truly outstanding horse.

Why are most of your horses potential three-mile chasers and staying types?

I much prefer buying National Hunt-bred horses than those off the Flat. I think they have that bit more longevity. If they’re not top class they are more likely to be able to carry weight, go handicapping and have a future in staying chases.

We have a lovely two-mile hurdler in Claret Cloak, who is a super horse, but the owners I have tend to like to buy three-mile chasing types and I suppose most people’s dream is to win a Gold Cup one day.

As well as highs, you’ve experienced lows such as when Self Defense and Highland Valley died within a month of each other. How hard is it to take?

Really hard. Self Defense had been a key part of my career from very early on. He’d retired here and we adored him. It was one of those sad things. It goes with the territory but it was absolutely gutting.

You have to try to turn your attention to the exciting youngsters in the yard and a staff that is looking to you to take them forward. You take time out to deal with the situation, but ultimately you have to keep going for the sake of everyone around you.

Those moments make the winners so much sweeter and make me realise there are times when I am just a girl.

What’s the latest on Penny Max, who hasn’t been seen since winning twice over fences last season?

He won at Newbury and Exeter and after we didn’t have any wet weather. He is seriously nice but must have soft ground so we turned him away with a plan to go for the Hennessy.

Messing around in the field at Highclere in the summer he must have done something and strained a tendon. It wasn’t drastic but he is going to miss this season.

What is unbelievably frustrating is that right now he’d be getting his favoured soft ground. He’s only a young horse so it’s not the end of the world and he’ll be back next season.

Also, Tocca Ferro rejigged his tendon when we were trying to get him back this season. Now we’ll try and ready him for next season to fulfil his unbelievable ability.

You went to school in Berkshire. Did you ever dream of Royal Ascot rather than the Cheltenham Festival?

I have always loved jump racing more than the Flat. In any case, I didn’t have a big owner/breeder to back me to go and buy decent Flat horses.

Whereas in the jumps world if you have a decent enough eye for a horse or a good agent – we use Gerry Hogan – you can buy a nice model and it doesn’t need to have the best pedigree; it can still go on and achieve what you want.

I went to Royal Ascot in my schooldays, sometimes legally and sometimes illegally. I don’t think I’ve missed a Royal Ascot since I was 11.