07/11/2001 12:00AM

Skiffington gets Princess Ellen dirty


ELMONT, N.Y. - Before Princess Ellen came to New York last fall, she was finishing in the money in Group 1 races against top grass fillies in Europe. Her connections were hoping their filly would parlay her European form into wins in American stakes races.

So far, that hasn't been the case.

Princess Ellen has turned out to be an enigma for trainer Tommy Skiffington, who took over her training when she arrived from England.

In an experiment, Skiffington has entered Princess Ellen in a second-level dirt allowance on Friday's twilight racing card at Belmont Park. The 4-year-old filly is also entered in Saturday's $150,000 All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes at Colonial Downs on the turf, but is expected to run in New York.

Princess Ellen will be facing four others in the fourth race, a $46,000 allowance at one mile. She drew the rail with Jerry Bailey, the country's leading jockey in money won, in the saddle.

Princess Ellen has run four times for Skiffington, including a pair of decent fourth-place finishes in graded stakes last year - the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup and the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere. This year, she was fourth and third in a couple of second-level grass races.

Skiffington, who trains Princess Ellen for Soo Thomas, said the problem with Princess Ellen is she is too keen early in her races and has nothing left for the finish.

"This is a total experiment or you can call it an act of desperation," Skiffington said with a laugh. "She pulls, pulls, pulls. If she can't relax and rate on turf, I thought I would run her on dirt and see if she can learn to relax. She's worked really well on the dirt."

Princess Ellen will have to learn how to relax on the lead, because there is no serious speed in this short field, and Skiffington's filly will likely scoot to the front from her rail post.

If she can handle the dirt at all, Princess Ellen, the probable favorite, doesn't have much to beat.

Favorite Ending has been stuck at this level since the winter when she won a first-level allowance at Aqueduct and then lost her next seven starts, while picking up checks in all but one of those races.

Chasm got off to an awkward start in her last against allowance company and was a nonthreatening fourth.

Ruby Friday is a restricted stakes winner and a factor against New York-breds, but was up against it facing open company in June.

If she won, Buster's Pineapple would be a huge surprise.