05/16/2013 11:45AM

Pimlico: Hot pace in Maryland Sprint Handicap may set up Hardened Wildcat, Candyman E

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BALTIMORE – No matter the temperature at Pimlico on Saturday, the heat is going to get turned up in the Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap, a six-furlong race loaded with early speed.

Action Andy, Manito, Warrioroftheroses, and Sage Valley all have sharp early speed, and with Action Andy and Manito drawn in posts 1 and 3, respectively, in the 10-horse field, they likely are committed to send. The potential race shape could benefit the likes of Hardened Wildcat and Candyman E, both of whom appear to be sitting on big efforts following lengthy breaks.

Hardened Wildcat recently returned from a four-month layoff to win a third-level allowance at Aqueduct. His form tailed off last year after an aggressive early-season campaign, but when he’s right, he can string together a multi-race win streak.

“He came back with a good effort,” said his trainer, Chad Brown. “We’ve always liked this horse.”

Hardened Wildcat is a prototypical late-running sprinter, so Brown hopes the expected speed materializes.

“His running style is to sit back and come with one run so I hope there is a lot of speed,” Brown said.

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Candyman E has made three starts since being sidelined for a year, and now returns to both his favorite distance, six furlongs, and surface, dirt. He was an excellent second to Discreet Dancer in his first start of the year in February at Gulfstream, won the Bensalem Stakes at Parx in March, and then was third in the Commonwealth at Keeneland on Polytrack last time out.

Action Andy was second most recently to Gulfstream specialist Travelin Man in the Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream on March 30.

Manito is the latest terrific claim for King Leatherbury, who both trains and owns him. Taken for $25,000 last November, Manito has raced six times for Leatherbury, has won his last four, and has banked nearly $100,000 this year.

Warrioroftheroses is inconsistent, his performances seemingly dependent on clearing his rivals early, which appears unlikely to happen here.

Sage Valley has not raced since November, when he won for the third straight time. Claimed 15 months ago by trainer Rudy Rodriguez and owner Michael Dubb for $50,000, Sage Valley already has more than earned back his purchase price. He has won on the lead or stalking, and may need to utilize the latter style here. Dubb is also a co-owner of Candyman E.

Laurie’s Rocket ran into the hottest sprinter in the country in Delaunay at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, and ran well, though a distant third.

The venerable Immortal Eyes, 8, making the 42nd start of his career, was compromised by a tough trip in the Charles Town Dash last time out.

Poseidon’s Warrior was an upset winner of the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga last summer, but went winless in four starts after that.

Broad Rule has never finished worse than second in three starts here, and comes off a victory against an optional $50,000 claiming field on April 18.

– additional reporting by David Grening