Uncle Sigh will be rewarding more than those who place Kentucky Derby bets on him during Saturday’s race. He’ll be honoring military veterans visually by wearing blinkers with a yellow hood depicting a Purple Heart. More specifically, its a gesture by Wounded Warrior Stables to honor members of the military that have been killed or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s an ongoing project by Uncle Sigh’s owner George “Chip” McEwen who adopted the ‘Wounded Warrior Stables’ name two years ago. He donates 10% of the horse’s purse earnings to several veterans’ organizations. First place in the Derby is worth $1.4 million meaning a nice windfall for the charities should Uncle Sigh win. McEwen says that he’s happy to help:
“It’s not about me, it’s about them, and getting them in the forefront of people’s minds again because it’s easy to forget we’ve been at war since 2001.”
McEwen was inspired to change his stable name and raise awareness for disabled vets after helping one get off an airplane a few years ago:
“It was then that I realized that I had to do more for people like that than buy a wristband or a T-shirt to support them.”
Several disabled veterans will be McEwen’s guest at the Kentucky Derby this year and he’s glad to have them:
“We’re excited to have them here. It’s a special day for us and this horse. Every horse owner’s dream is to get to the Derby. We’re hoping for a miracle, like everybody else.”
Uncle Sigh’s trainer Gary Contessa has more practical interest in the purple heart blinkers, hoping they’ll improve his chances of winning the race:
“I think they’ll help him take the next jump. In every single race I’ve seen a reason to think he needs blinkers. Hopefully we’ll focus him, and he can become a really good horse.”
The Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs race track in Louisville, Kentucky. It features the top three year old thoroughbreds in the sport and is the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown followed by the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York.