Uncle Sigh Odds to Win the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/23/2014
When the last of the prep races were done, Uncle Sigh was on the outside looking in - 21st on the list of Kentucky Derby points with only 20 starting spots. Thanks to injuries to Constitution and Cairo Prince and the defection of Midnight Hawk, though, he is now well within the top 20 and en route to the Derby starting gate.
So, now that he is in, can Uncle Sigh win the Kentucky Derby? The oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag certainly aren't optimistic. Uncle Sigh's odds to win the Kentucky Derby have been set at +5000, which puts him not only behind 17 other horses that are in the field but also well behind Social Inclusion (+2800) Bayern (+3000) - two horses that haven't even secured a spot in the field yet.
When trying to figure out if there is any value to found on this long shot, here are five factors to consider:
The Wood Memorial: This shows just how fickle things are during prep season. Heading into this race Uncle Sigh was the popular third choice behind only favored Social Inclusion and Samraat. If he had won the race he would have likely been no worse than the second choice to win the Derby. Instead, the horse had a disastrous outing, and now he is a forgotten runner.
It was a just plain lousy race. He was left behind in the gate and then found himself way wide around both turns. When asked to move down the stretch, he had little answer. It was by far the worst race of his career - the only no-show in five starts. Now we have to determine if he had excuses or if he just isn't progressing. My inclination is to mostly toss the race out of my handicapping because of the poor start.
Prior experience: In four starts before the Wood, Uncle Sigh had won once and finished second three times. The last two were both stakes outings - the Withers and the Gotham - and in both cases he came up just short against Samraat in thrilling stretch duels. Though he doesn't have a stakes win, he has had good efforts aside from the Wood.
The biggest concern, though, is that all five of his starts have come at Aqueduct. That means that he hasn't traveled, and he hasn't had to deal with the stress of strange surroundings and unfamiliar tracks. We don't know how well he will handle it because he has never handled it before.
Trainer: Gary Contessa has long been one of the top trainers in New York. In 2007 he set the record for most wins in the state with 159. His stable isn't as big or as successful now, but he still knows how to win a race. He has not played at this level often, though, and he isn't an asset for this horse at the Derby.
Jockey: I do not like it when a horse gets a new rider for the Derby, but that is the case here. Corey Nakatani has been aboard for his last two races but has instead opted to ride Dance With Fate in the Derby - a decision I really don't like. That has opened up the saddle for an interesting storyline. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard. His brother Jose has the mount aboard Samraat, so the Ortiz boys will become the first brothers since Sam and Eddie Maple in 1984 to ride in this race. Both brothers are having very good years - Irad is sixth in the country in earnings and Jose sits just one spot behind. Not bad considering that Irad is the older brother, and he is just 22. He has not had a Derby mount yet, so this could be a slightly overwhelming experience for him. Having his brother there will help, though, and he does have Triple Crown experience - he finished fourth in the Belmont last year aboard long shot Incognito.
Breeding: Uncle Sigh is from the last crop of Indian Charlie. That horse died in 2011 but not before he had sired four champions. Though Indian Charlie was a strong third in the 1998 Derby behind Real Quiet, his offspring have tended to excel at somewhat shorter distances, so Uncle Sigh doesn't get a stamina boost here. His damsire Pine Bluff was fifth in the 1992 Derby, but came back to win the Preakness and finish third in the Belmont behind A.P. Indy. He's a grandson of Northern Dancer, so there are certainly stamina influences on that side of the pedigree. There are horses with better distance breeding in this race, but there are a lot worse, too.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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