Harness racing trainer Joe Holloway hopes a kinder, gentler Marty Party still provides reasons to celebrate. Last year, Marty Party won five of 11 races and $164,122 for Holloway, Val D'Or Farms, Four J's Stable and Dreamland Farms. Holloway has seen an improved attitude in the 3-year-old filly pacer as she preps for her first race of this season.
"She doesn't totally want to kill me," Holloway said, laughing, and confirming with a grin, "Oh, she's mean. She likes to fight.
"She's a little bit nicer than last year, so far. She doesn't want to tear my head off. I prefer that."
Marty Party, who suffered from a foot abscess last season that nearly caused her to miss the Breeders Crown, won a division of the Reynolds Memorial Stakes as well as three legs of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. She finished third in the sire stakes championship, beaten by three-quarters of a length, behind Economy Terror and Destiny's Chance.
Following her foot troubles, Marty Party finished third in divisions of the Bluegrass (with Holloway blaming himself for not having her manageable) and International Stallion Stakes and was seventh in the Breeders Crown.
Marty Party (Yankee Cruiser-Noble Marty) was third in a qualifier on April 13, beaten by a neck in 1:55.2, and won her qualifier on April 20 by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:53.4.
"She qualified fine," Holloway said. "She's big and strong; we just have to hope for the best. Time will tell, but so far so good."
Another of Holloway's 3-year-old filly pacers, Notreadytobenice, also won a qualifier last week while 3-year-old gelding pacer Escape The News was third.
Notreadytobenice (Western Ideal-Don't You Smile) won three of 12 races and $137,943 last year for owners Val D'Or Farms, LST Stables, William DeVan Jr. and Dreamland Farms. She was second to Pirouette Hanover in the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship and third, beaten by a neck, in the Matron Stakes.
"I think she's better than last year," Holloway said.
Escape The News (Artiscape-Ideal News) won four of 11 races last season, including a division of the International Stallion Stakes and a leg of the New York Sire Stakes, and earned $232,296. He is owned by Brittany Farms and Val D'Or Farms.
In his qualifier, Escape The News was third behind Heston Blue Chip and Verdad. He was timed in 1:53.2. A week earlier, he won a qualifier in 1:54.
"He's big and strong and looks great," Holloway said. "He shouldn't have gotten beat (Friday) but he's always a little bit lazy on the front. But that's just an excuse; he had fractions his own way. I'm a little disappointed that he did (get beat) but that's kind of him. It's a qualifier; I was pleased."
Holloway, who also trains New York Sire Stakes champion filly trotter For A Dancer, hopes to see his horses make their seasonal debuts in the next several weeks.
"They all have next week off," he said. "Then if I find a race, I'll race. If I don't, the sire stakes start in the middle of the month. It's getting close. You have to get ready. We're kind of all dressed up and ready to go. It's tough because you don't want to race horses like that against aged horses.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy," Holloway continued about his horses, adding with a laugh, "but ask me in October."