06/12/2003 11:00PM

Signs point to Sawdust in Marsh Stakes

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If it's true that history repeats itself, then Sawdust could be the sleeper in Sunday's $50,000 John D. Marsh Stakes for 3-year-old Virginia-breds at Colonial Downs.

A recent claim by trainer Robert Klesaris, Sawdust will be returning to turf for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Marsh since last October. Sawdust's only win in eight lifetime starts came the first time he was tried on grass in a mile race at Ellis Park.

That's only part of the reason that Sawdust looks intriguing in a field where all but one of the nine runners remain eligible for a nonwinners of two allowance.

Two years ago, a horse named Unaccountedlea won the Marsh with an 84 Beyer Speed Figure. Earlier that season, Unaccountedlea also won the Woodlawn on turf at Pimlico. As a half-brother to Unaccountedlea, Sawdust, it's reasonable to assume, might also possess stakes potential on grass.

In terms of proven turf form, Royal Millennium and North Broad have the best credentials in the Marsh field.

Royal Milennium, the only two-time winner in the field, earned an 83 Beyer when he made his turf debut in a first-level allowance at Fair Grounds three months ago. He missed by a nose, but regressed when he came back against similar competition three weeks later.

North Broad is the most experienced turf runner in the Marsh and the only horse with a Beyer on grass that's within 10 points of Royal Millennium's top number. Trained by Linda Rice, North Broad won his grass debut at The Meadowlands last fall and was competitive in two of his three turf starts in Florida this spring, including a third in the Budweiser Challenge at Tampa Bay Downs.

Aside from Sawdust and North Broad, the only other horse with a turf win is Subordinate's Lad. He won his only start on grass in a maiden claiming race at Kentucky Downs last September, but has lost 10 in a row on dirt since then.

Among those who have yet to try turf, Dixie's Hero makes his second start since coming to John Alecci's barn. Alecci has won with 3 of 6 first-time turf runners the past two years.