02/15/2014 4:44PM

Aqueduct: Nakatani picks up mount on Uncle Sigh for Gotham

Barbara D. Livingston
Corey Nakatani (above) will replace Pablo Morales aboard Uncle Sigh for the Gotham Stakes.

Corey Nakatani will ride Withers Stakes runner-up Uncle Sigh in the Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham Stakes on March 1 at Aqueduct, replacing Pablo Morales, trainer Gary Contessa said Saturday.

Contessa said the decision, made in tandem with owner Chip McEwen - who races under the moniker Wounded Warrior Stable - was to go with a more experienced rider and was “no knock whatsoever on Pablo Morales,” Contessa added.

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Nakatani, 43, has ridden 3,687 winners but is winless with 16 mounts in the Kentucky Derby. Morales, 25, has never ridden in the Derby.

“Nakatani rides for Wounded Warrior in California,” Contessa said. “We have no complaints with Pablo. Nakatani’s been there, he’s a good friend of mine, a good friend of the owner. Hopefully, we picked somebody who can stay with him all the way through.”

Uncle Sigh, a New York-bred son of Indian Charlie, has 1 win from 3 starts. He was beaten one length by Samraat in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes on Feb. 1.

Contessa said he is hoping to work Uncle Sigh on Monday or Tuesday, depending on condition of the Belmont Park training track. Inclement weather has forced the New York Racing Association to cancel training from Thursday through Saturday.

“As hard as this horse ran in the Withers I don’t feel like he’s missing anything,” said Contessa, who added that he doesn’t want to miss too much more time or else he might have to skip the Gotham and point for a race out of town like the Tampa Bay Derby or Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Meanwhile, Withers winner Samraat worked four furlongs in 49.30 seconds Saturday morning at Palm Meadows. Trainer Rick Violette said he wanted to work the undefeated colt one more time before deciding where Samraat would make his next start.