A stronger and more mature I Do with the ''spotty bottom'' has been in top form in her current campaign and looks poised to pick up her first black type victory at New Plymouth today.
The No Excuse Needed five-year-old lines up in the Grp III $80,000 Hooker Pacific Taranaki Cup.
I Do has paid a dividend all four times to the races this preparation, including three lower grade successes which have taken her total number of wins to six.
I Do tackled the Wairarapa Breeders' Stakes at Tauherenikau last start on February 6, finishing a gallant second behind Kekova in the listed 1600m race for fillies and mares.
''She's only just now recovering from races quickly,'' explained her co-owner and trainer Allan Sharrock after watching I Do complete her final pre-race gallop at the New Plymouth track on Thursday morning.
''She's a very good mare. She's just needed a lot of time.''
Sharrock said the lanky grey has spent most of her career working alongside the recently retired and multiple group race winner Shez Sinsational.
''They are both five-year-olds and she and Shez Sinsational boxed together, worked up together. I always thought there wasn't much between the two.
But Shez Sinsational had the constitution of an ox, while this one (I Do), if she had a hard run and she took an age to get over it, while the other one would eat her way out it.''
I Do attracts more than her share of attention when parading on raceday, not only because of her dapple grey coat and lean frame, but because of large white spot on her rump which she has had since birth.
''It is unusual and I haven't seen a horse with one like it in my lifetime,'' Sharrock said. ''My daughter has always called her spotty bottom.''
Sharrock said I Do has come through her Wairarapa Stakes outing in tip top order.
''She's fine and I'm more than happy with her work this week.''
With the recommendation of Opie Bosson, who rode I Do last start, the blinkers go back on I Do tomorrow for the first time this campaign.
''Opie said she buttoned off a bit at Masterton, so it makes sense to put them on,'' Sharrock said.
The horse will also have a change of rider with Matthew Cameron replacing Bosson who cannot make the 53kg I Do has to carry.
The last time I Do raced in blinkers, she won by 4-1/4 lengths at Awapuni with Cameron up.
I Do has a liking for good tracks, with five of her six wins being on good footing.
The New Plymouth track yesterday was rated a good 2 and no significant rain for the area is forecast.
If there is a question mark over I Do's chances of taking out the cup, it is can she get 1800m? The one and only time she has raced past 1600 metres was in her last start of her previous campaign when she tackled a rating 75 2000 on her home track.
''The track was soft that day. She was a $2 favourite and finished fourth.
She just didn't go in it that day and I turned her out (for a spell),'' recalled Sharrock. ''The distance won't worry her, as long as the track's good.''
I Do has drawn the ace barrier of the 16 acceptors in the Hooker Pacific Taranaki Cup and from there should get the run of the race.
Sharrock said he would like to see her settled off the pace in the early rush.
The hardest for I Do to beat could be the other New Plymouth-trained galloper in the field, Jetset Lad.
He will be trying to make it back-to-back wins in the feature race after beating Riomoral and Spiro last year.
Jetset Lad's last three outings have been against Grp I company.
The most recent was in last Saturday's Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m) when he settled at the tail of the field from a wide draw early before making ground late into sixth of the 13 runners and just 3.4 lengths from winner Final Touch.
Trainer John Wheeler had earlier said the Jetset Lad would bypass the Taranaki Cup, but he had a change of heart after the race, encouraged by the horse's most recent effort.
Jetset Lad won last year's Taranaki Cup carrying 55kg and tomorrow the Grp I Railway Stakes runner up this summer has 57kg to carry with Rosie Myers booked to ride.
Other good chances are topweight Spiro, Matamata visitor Estrato and Boninsky.
Spiro hasn't won a race for just over two years, but they don't come much more honest than the Pyrus seven-year-old who carries 59kg, the same weight as last year.
Estrato has not finished further back than third in his last five outings, finishing strongly for third in the Hamilton Casino Cup (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 2.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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