04/14/2014 1:23PM

Kentucky Derby starting odds are in Uncle Sigh's favor

Tom Keyser
Uncle Sigh is expected to make it into the field for the Kentucky Derby. He is currently 21st on the Derby points list.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Twenty-one is great if you’re playing blackjack, but not so terrific if you’re trying to get into the Kentucky Derby.

However, if trainer Gary Contessa were a gambling man, he’d double down on his chances to make the Derby with his 3-year-old Uncle Sigh, who currently sits 21st on the list of horses with qualifying points for the May 3 Kentucky Derby. The field is limited to 20 starters and the field is based on points earned in races designated by Churchill Downs. All the major points races have been run.

Contessa feels pretty confident that there will be at least one defection from the top 20 and that will allow Uncle Sigh to get into the field. Midnight Hawk, one of the horses ahead of Uncle Sigh, is expected to enter and run in Saturday’s $500,000 Illinois Derby making it unlikely – though not impossible – that he runs back in the Kentucky Derby. The connections of Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate and Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend – both in the top 20 – are wavering on whether to run in Louisville.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

On Monday, Contessa was already plotting Uncle Sigh’s path to Kentucky, which would begin with workouts on Friday and April 24, with a planned van ride to Louisville late afternoon on the 24th.

“That would be if the world was so perfect,” Contessa said.

Uncle Sigh has only one win in five starts but he was a solid second to Derby contender Samraat in both the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham during Aqueduct’s winter meet. Most recently, he finished fifth, eight lengths behind Wicked Strong, in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

“He took a step back when they sprung the gate and that was the scenario you couldn’t have,” said Contessa, whose horse broke from post 9 in the 10-horse field. “I’m satisfied he was running at the end; he wasn’t backing up. I just toss that race. If Samraat deserves to be there, I deserve to be there. That’s how I feel.”

Contessa did say that he would equip Uncle Sigh with blinkers for the Derby. He also said that Irad Ortiz Jr. would ride Uncle Sigh, replacing Corey Nakatani.

As confident as he is that Uncle Sigh will crack the Derby field, Contessa did say that if he did not get into the race he would likely run him in the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 10, with the Preakness Stakes on May 17 also an option.