AT LEAST once a week, Debbie Wills will light a white candle in the living room of her home at Bagshot.
She places the candle next to a plaque, which signifies one of her proudest achievements in horse racing.
The plaque bears the name of Donna Philpot - the award honours the memory of the former jockey, husband of Gus and mother of Jessie and Montana, who died in a track fall at the Bendigo Jockey Club in June, 2017.
The coveted award is for 'special achievement' and is presented annually at the Bendigo Trainers' Association horse of the year awards.
Hobby trainer Wills, who has prepared a small team of horses (no more than three at a time) since 2014, was the inaugural recipient of the memorial award last year.
She remains as humble today about the honour as she did on the night last August when she accepted the award, and is steadfast in her commitment to preserving both its prestige and her memories of Donna.
Wills, who expects to absent from this Saturday night's horse of the year awards due to work commitments at a Bendigo aged care facility, said whoever won the award this year would feel privileged and undoubtedly emotional.
"It was very emotional for me .... very special," Wills said.
"I was that emotional last year at the awards, I could barely talk.
"Now on my days off, I light a candle next to (the award). I really liked Donna and that was very special to win.
"I have no idea who will win it this year, but I know they are going to be very excited and very privileged. And I know it will be well deserved.
"We (trainers) all work really hard, and we all have our ups and downs, but I absolutely love it."
Wills won the award for her outstanding performance in saddling up four winners in a roughly 10-week period with recycled gallopers Special Feeling and Ahsha.
Sadly for Wills, both have since been retired - Special Feeling following a bleeding attack last March, and only recently Ahsha, who will potentially begin a career as a broodmare.
That leaves the former Brent Stanley-trained mare Ferrocerum (two wins and one placing from 12 starts) as the lone active horse in the stable.
Wills hopes the five-year-old, who has not raced since September 2018, will make her debut for her next month.
The prestigious Donna Philpot Memorial Award will be one of several awards presented on Saturday night at Silks Function Centre.
Also up for grabs will be the top two-year-old, three-year-old, sprinter, middle-distance galloper, stayer, picnic horse and the top honour, Bendigo horse of the year.
Full BTA horse of the year nominees
Two-year-old: Hi Stranger, St Edward's Crown, Travail.
Three-year-old: In Her Honour, Lady Solly, Queen Guinevere, Septzento, Tatunka.
Sprinter: All About Nicci, Carlingford, Like To Think So, Miss Leonidas.
Middle distance: Peninsula Boy, Penny To Sell, Raid The Cabinet
Stayer: Fold, Grassini, Westham.
Picnic: Fold, Norsika.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.