08/28/2003 11:00PM

Centerofattention is commanding notice


DEL MAR, Calif. - Centerofattention may be more than a winner of two minor stakes by the end of the Labor Day weekend.

Already this year, Centerofattention has won the Sun City Handicap at Turf Paradise in May and the Luther Burbank Handicap at Santa Rosa in July. Those wins have owners Dennis and Norine Grenier and trainer Eric Kruljac expecting further improvement when Centerofattention starts in Monday's $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap for California-bred fillies and mares at Del Mar.

"She seems to be getting good," Kruljac said. "She's never trained as good. In her last three races, two have been her best races."

A 5-year-old, Centerofattention has won 4 of 21 starts and $225,396, earning most of that prize money this year. This has also been her first season without mishap.

"She's had to fight through some injuries," Kruljac said. "She showed some ability at 2 when she finished second in the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies but she had a check ligament. We brought her back and she chipped a knee, so we had to take that out."

Centerofattention needed 13 races to win her maiden at Santa Anita in March 2002. In the last 18 months, she has won 3 of 8 starts, including the Sun City over a mile on turf and the Burbank over 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

The Solana Beach is run over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"This would by far be her biggest win," Kruljac said. "She's absolutely breezed unbelievably on this turf course."

Kruljac picked out Centerofattention at the 1999 Del Mar yearling sale for $55,000. Bred by Ross Harris, Centerofattention is by Beau Genius and out of the Irish-bred mare Crowning Faith, who was winless in three starts at 2 and 3.

Centerofattention is her only stakes winner. Crowning Faith is out of Loss or Gain, an Ack Ack mare. Loss or Gain is the dam of Lost Code, a winner of 12 stakes and $2,085,396 in the late 1980's.

Beau Genius is having an outstanding year. His progeny have earned $1,829,289 this year, good enough for fifth on the list of California-based stallions. Beau Genius stands at Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona for $7,500.

Monday's race will help Kruljac and the Greniers determine Centerofattention's future. If she runs well, it would allow them to continue to race her on turf or dirt. With the California Cup and Sunshine Millions on the schedule this fall and winter, there will be plenty of stakes opportunities for older Cal-bred mares.

Sky Jack attains millionaire status

Sky Jack became the 34th California-bred to reach millionaire status with his victory in the $250,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 24. Sky Jack earned $137,500, improving his lifetime earnings to $1,115,127.

Earlier this year, the California-bred sprinters Echo Eddie ($1,028,754) and Full Moon Madness ($1,011,185) crossed the seven-figure milestone. The richest California-bred in history is Tiznow with earnings of $6,427,830. He stands at stud in Kentucky.

It may not take long for California to find its 35th millionaire. Continental Red, the 2002 California-bred horse of the year, starts in Sunday's $250,000 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf. With career earnings of $924,203, Continental Red, 7, would reach $1 million with a victory.

All the recent millionaires have one thing in common - they are all older geldings.

Echo Eddie is 6, Sky Jack is 7, and Full Moon Madness is 8.

Sky Jack, who races for breeders Rene and Margie Lambert, has returned to trainer Doug O'Neill's stable at Santa Anita. He is unlikely to start until the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Nov. 8. Sky Jack won the race in 2000 but has been sidelined twice in recent years with injuries that have kept him from reappearing in the race.