04/07/2015 2:10PM

Harness: Owners 'Dress For Success' in Weiss Series

Curtis Salonick
Dress For Success.

Stacey Ruddick and Denise Dennis said yes to the dress and ended up with a horse.

It happened in 2012. Ruddick and Dennis were interested in buying a yearling trotter named Panthere Dream at the Lexington Selected Sale, but worried the filly might not fall in their price range. A friend asked if they saw a dress they really liked, would they look at the price tag or simply buy the dress. Ruddick said she was unsure while Dennis said without hesitation that she would buy the dress.

Their friend responded, referring to the yearling auction, “When you get in there, go buy your dress.”

Ruddick and Dennis came away with Panthere Dream for $18,000 and renamed the filly Dress For Success.

“I wanted a Kentucky (Sire Stakes eligible) horse, but I didn’t know if she would fall into my price range,” said Ruddick, who operates a farm in Indiana that breeds, boards, trains and races Standardbreds. “I ran into my friend Denise and she was interested in buying the horse too. We loved her. There was something about the look in her eye that Denise really liked and we loved her video.”

Dress For Success, now a 4-year-old mare, has won six of 38 career races and earned $96,254. She has captured back-to-back starts in the Bobby Weiss Series for 3- and 4-year-old female trotters at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and is the 8-5 morning line favorite in Wednesday’s second of two third-round divisions.

A daughter of stallion Infinitif out of the mare Padme Hanover, Dress For Success was winless at age 2, but finished third in the Kentucky Sire Stakes championship and second in the Kentucky Fair Stakes final.

Last year, she won a preliminary round of the Kentucky Sire Stakes series, but went off stride in the championship. She again finished second in the Kentucky Fair Stakes final and earned checks in the Buckette and a division of the Circle City Stakes.

Ruddick, who trained Dress For Success at ages 2 and 3, decided to send the trotter to New Jersey at the end of last season and put the horse in the stable of trainer Chris Freck. Since arriving on the East Coast, Dress For Success has won four of 10 starts and hit the board a total of six times.

“She was very athletic from the beginning,” Ruddick said. “She never did anything wrong. She was really more laidback than any good trotting filly that I’ve ever had; she took everything in stride. She never had been on the track with another horse until her first county fair. And she was like ‘whatever.’ Usually they’re scared.

“She wastes no motion when she trots. When you sit behind her you don’t feel you’re going nearly as fast as you are because she covers so much ground. Chris says she’s gotten a little bit more fired up on the track since she’s been going faster out there, but at the barn she’s an absolute sweetheart.”

Dress For Success finished second in an opening-round division of January’s Super Bowl Series at the Meadowlands, defeated by a half-length by Blocking The Way in 1:54 1/5, before going off stride in the second round and turning up sick in the final.

She followed with two conditioned wins at the Big M and got her first chance this season against female-only competition when she headed to the Weiss Series at the end of March.

“She won a couple races at the Meadowlands, and that was exciting,” Ruddick said. “A lot of people think she’s surprised us, but she really hasn’t surprised me and my dad (Harold) because I knew what she was. She always had bad luck last year. Stupid things would happen that weren’t her fault.

“Chris found (the Weiss) series for us and it’s worked out nice. She was super in the first leg of the Super Bowl and then in the second leg she had some problems and she was sick in the final. She fizzled out in that series, but we always thought she was nice so we wanted to give her a chance in this series.”

Dress For Success and driver Matt Kakaley won their opener in the Weiss Series by a half-length in 1:57.1 over a “good” track and won last week by 5-1/2 lengths in 1:55 1/5.

“I think Matt Kakaley has been a really nice fit for her,” said Ruddick, who might keep Dress For Success on the East Coast for some overnight races before bringing her home for a layoff and then a trip to Lexington’s Red Mile followed by a return to New Jersey. “He has a lot of confidence in the horse. A lot of people would have questioned whether she belonged, but he has confidence in her and drives her with confidence, which is really nice.”

Passing Jetta is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the first division of Wednesday’s Weiss Series. Two-time series winner Classic Belisima, who won her second-round start in 1:53 3/5, is off this week.

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com

[DRF HARNESS: Check out our complete lineup of Harness past performances and discount packages]