King Zachary winning the Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) - Coady Photography

King Zachary winning the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) – Coady Photography

Happy Kentucky Derby Day!

Conditions at Churchill Downs are officially fast and firm for the start of the 14-race Derby Day card, which kicks off at 10:30 p.m. ET. But there’s a strong chance of rain in the afternoon, so keep an eye on the weather since conditions could deteriorate as the day progresses.

As of 9:13 p.m. ET, scratches and rider changes are as follows:

Race 4

Scratch #9 Fortin Hill.

Race 5

Scratch #1 Live Young, #1A Sugar Love, #3 Brie’s Lucky Charm, #14 Tizahra, #15 Tynagh Spirit, #16 Choate Bridge and #17 Temperit.

Race 8

Scratch #2 Limousine Liberal.

Race 10

Scratch #15 Global Campaign.

Race 12

Scratch #11 Haikal and #12 Omaha Beach.

Please note, #10 Cutting Humor will be ridden by Mike Smith.

Race 13

Scratch #7 Great Success.

The first five races of the day are quality maiden and allowance events, which we previewed earlier in the week. Since the five races also comprise a Pick 5, why don’t we put together a play and seek to start the day on a winning note?

In the opener, I’ll play against the inconsistent morning line favorite #6 Mr. Crow with #2 Control Stake ad #3 Curate. The latter looms as the fastest horse on paper (at least recently), while the former has endured poor pace setups in his last eight starts.

In the second race I’ll single #4 King Zachary, who has shown a clear fondness for Churchill Downs. If he takes a step forward in his 4-year-old debut, he can reach the winner’s circle for trainer Graham Motion, who wins at a 24-percent rate off long layoffs.

The third race is a wide-open maiden event where we’ll spread deep with the favorites #4 Surooj, #1 He’s Stylish and #1A Young Phillip,plus a couple of former Californians now based in Kentucky, #9 Kneedeepinsnow and #10 Admiral Brown.

#2 Hidden Scroll will be a heavy favorite to win the fourth race, but he’s coming off a tough spring season, so we’ll back him up with #4 High Crime, a talented sprinter cutting back in distance off a sharp try going long at Keeneland.

The finale is another tough maiden race, this one on turf. On the basis of both form and pedigree, I’ll include the four daughters of top turf sire Kitten’s Joy, #2 Encore Kitten, #4 Senora Gato, #5 Hungry Kitten, and #6 Silver Kitten, along with the morning line favorite #12 Gold Standard, the dirt-to-turf switcher #11 Michelles Fault, and the improving #10 Zurlin.

$0.50 Race 1 Pick 5: 2,3 with 4 with 1,4,9,10 with 2,4 with 2,4,5,6,10,11,12 ($56)

Good luck!