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Anne M. Eberhardt

Uncle Sigh Connections On Own With Veterans

Wounded Warrior owner 'couldn't count on Churchill' to provide Derby tickets, seats.

Owner Chip McEwen will have several veterans with him May 3 at the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) to watch Uncle Sigh run for his Wounded Warrior Stables in partnership with Anthony Robertson—but Churchill Downs didn't help with their tickets or access, McEwen said.

Instead, the owner said May 1 on the backstretch in Louisville, industry members banded together to support our troops.

"I had to do all that; I couldn't count on Churchill to do any of that," said McEwen, who donates 10% of purses from his runners' winnings to a variety of organizations that work with veterans. "Mike Penna of Horse Racing Radio Network was kind enough to donate his box to me, and so six of them will be sitting in that box and another three or four will be in different boxes I bought."

Last year Fox Hill Farms owner Rick Porter brought a group of WWII veterans to the Derby to watch his Normandy Invasion , but struggled to get seating. Ultimately, he had to call in a favor from Churchill board member Richard Duchossois, himself a WWII veteran, to help with arrangements for the elderly vets.

Uncle Sigh, a 30-1 shot who is trainer Gary Contessa's first Derby starter, runs in silks bearing a purple heart and will sport blinkers with the same when he starts from post 3. (For Leslie Knauf's earlier feature on the New York-bred colt, "Uncle Sigh Carries High Hopes, Purple Heart," click here.)

"People forget we've been at war in Afghanistan since 2001," McEwan said. "The only reason they're over there doing that is because they are fighting for our freedom. They're just forgotten; no one thinks about them. There are 971 vets who try to kill themselves every 30 days in this country."