02/12/2008 12:00AM

Princess Amelie gives grass a try


ARCADIA, Calif. - Two months after an impressive debut, Princess Amelie returns as a certain underlay in the eighth-race feature at Santa Anita.

Princess Amelie crushed maidens by six lengths Dec. 9 on the main track at Hollywood Park, but even her trainer, Ron Ellis, acknowledged, "I don't think it turned out to be the strongest field."

In fact, only one filly she beat has won since, the race was not fast (81 Beyer Speed Figure), and it was run over an entirely different surface than on Thursday.

The saving grace for Princess Amelie is a turf pedigree. Thursday, she races 6 1/2 furlongs on grass.

"She's out of an Alleged mare, and Bertrandos seem to run either way," Ellis said.

Princess Amelie, owned by Laurent Zilber, drew the rail in the sprint for California-bred fillies and mares, a nonwinners-of-one allowance race with a claiming option.

Thirteen entered the race, originally scheduled for Jan. 25. Princess Amelie was the 2-1 program favorite, but racing was canceled. Ellis said the three-week delay did not affect preparation - Princess Amelie worked twice since - but he admitted the new surface is somewhat of an experiment.

"I'm just trying to see if grass is going to be an option for her down the line, or whether she'll be a [main-track] horse," he said.

Prior to repair of the Santa Anita main track, Ellis tried to avoid that surface.

"If the new track is softer and kinder, I won't be afraid to run on it," he said. "But the other track was too hard, and I planned running [Princess Amelie] on grass because of that."

Princess Amelie is a 4-year-old half-sister to graded stakes winner Collect Call. Jockey Joe Talamo will be aboard, and will have to work out a come-from-behind trip over a downhill course that has favored speed. Aside from one turf sprint scheduled for Wednesday, the last nine races on the hill had been won by front-runners or pace-pressers.

The profile favors speedball Kiss the Cooke. She had been off 14 months when she returned Jan. 1 in a similar Cal-bred allowance on the main track. Kiss the Cooke set the pace, opened up in midstretch, and was run over late to finish third.

Brian Koriner trains Kiss the Cooke, who should improve second start back. Alex Solis rides the front-running daughter of Kessem Power.

Other starters include Celebration, Lighten Up Rule, Charm N Broad, Jazzerin, Whims and Fancies, Ghostly Girl, Lupita'sluckyangel, Tutta Bella, Lt. Lorraine, and also-eligibles Sneaky Jack and Britney Heat.