Key Horse Races & Expert Handicapper Bets - January 02, 2021

Join us each week as our expert handicapper, Ellis Starr, reveals his horse racing picks for upcoming races at tracks you can bet on with AmWager. He also gives a brief overview of the horses and their past performances so you can have a better understanding of why he chose his selections.

Happy Betting!

Race 8 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 3:41 PM Eastern

Grand Journey was claimed out of a win at this identical $62,500 claiming/optional allowance level in June. Trainer Mike Maker, who is having an exceptional year, didn’t turn him into a stakes winner as he’s done with so many others, managing to get a fourth place finish out of him in July then a ninth place finish in September in a tough Grade 3 Stakes field. Now he’s dropping back to the claimed level and he gets Vasquez, who Maker has a lot of success with. It’s not a giveaway and the horse fits perfectly at the level as well as shows a nice pair of recent works at Gulfstream. Last summer (2019), Grand Journey put in three straight wins on the Gulfstream Park turf including one in a non-graded stakes so he’s got the ability to win in this situation.

Scraps loves this turf course, with nine first or second place finishes in 15 races. He nearly won his last start as well, at Gulfstream Park West, coming up a head and three-quarters of a length short after a big late rally. Lopez takes over and that’s a BIG sign and even though I don’t expect his 10/1 morning line odds to hold up he could offer excellent value for all wagers we make involving this race.

Kingmeister tried turf only once, in July, finishing third of eight with an effort which is much better than it appears on paper. First of all he was coming back from six months and running a mile at Saratoga and second he made a HUGE early move from 16 lengths back to three lengths back in the span of a quarter mile. He stayed in an off-turf race in August and won easily then ran badly on dirt and took three months off. He’s been working well and gets Saez so I expect a top effort.

Handicapper Picks


Grand Journey to win at 2 to 1 or more

For a smaller amount, consider Scraps (who opens at 10/1) and Kingmeister (who opens at 6/1) to win at 3/1 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. AmWager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.


Box Grand JourneyScraps and Kingmeister


Race 8 – Grand JourneyScraps and Kingmeister

Race 9 – TraipsingKelsey’s Cross

Pick 3 (multiple tickets):

Race 8 – Grand JourneyScraps and Kingmeister

Race 9 – TraipsingKelsey’s Cross

Race 10 – Cool ArrowLast JudgementDiamond Oops

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Via Borghese Stakes – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:12 PM Eastern

Traipsing drops a notch in class off a fine runner-up effort, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Grade 3 Long Island Stakes. She led from the start in that race and clearly held second. That race was at a mile and three-eighths, so the cut back to a mile and three-sixteenths should benefit her nicely, particularly as she won prior to that at a mile and one-sixteenth, again leading from start to finish. This race is mostly devoid of a horse which wants to lead except her, and from the two post she should be able to control the tempo and prove tough to catch.

Kelsey’s Cross can post the upset if Traipsing can’t lead from start to finish. She’s earned all three career wins on this course, including in June off a layoff like the one she’s coming back from today. That win came in a non-graded stakes like this one in which she rallied from eighth. However, one race before last in the similar Dayatthespa Stakes, Kelsey’s Cross stalked the pacesetter in second early and battled head-and-head the entire length of the stretch before missing by a head. She was off slow in her last start and ended up third but the jockey change to Leparoux gives her a big shot to return to winning form.

As to the two starting favorites, Great Island and Always Shopping, neither are good win bets at low odds and both are marginal win contenders as well. They both get outside posts and Great Island will be bet heavily as a Chad Brown trainee but has only a first level allowance win to her credit, while Always Shopping has as many runner-up finishes (3) as wins (3) and even her win in the similar Monroe Stakes in September, if repeated here, may not be good enough to win.

Handicapper Picks


Traipsing and Kelsey’s Cross to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.


Traipsing and Kelsey’s Cross over TraipsingKelsey’s CrossGun SocietyCourt ReturnAlways Shopping and Great Island.


Race 9 – TraipsingKelsey’s Cross

Race 10 – Cool ArrowLast JudgementDiamond Oops

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Mr. Prospector Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:43 PM Eastern

I am REALLY looking forward to this race, which has a couple of horses at odds way too high to ignore and therefore has a potential for a big profit.

One of those is Last Judgement, from the red hot barn of Mike Maker. This horse was very well regarded as a three year old in 2019, but got a late start, still winning his second and third starts then contesting the Pat Day Mile on Derby day and the Pegasus Stakes in June. Off for eight months and returning as a gelding this past February, he won a sprint at Gulfstream very impressively then finished eighth, third and sixth in non-graded stakes. Given three more months off and dropped into a claimer, he won and was claimed then two later claimed again, by Maker. That claim came in a winning effort at 6 ½ furlongs at Belmont with a career-best 107 Equibase figure. Now Maker puts him in this grade 3 stakes off the claim and I’m very intrigued, particularly with two of his last three works being EXCEPTIONAL – 59.2 (best of 29) for five furlongs and 58.2. Vasquez wins a lot of races for Maker but keeps the price square near his morning line of 20/1. With five wins in 11 career dirt races this gelding gives a big shot to blow the race up.

Diamond Oops won this race last year at 7 to 2 and will be closer to 2 to 1 this year as he drops after finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Last year he dropped out of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile so it’s the same kind of move and as he won back to back grade 2 stakes prior to his last start he certainly can win.

Cool Arrow is a very tough “win type” with 10 career wins in 27 races including a four for seven record on the Gulfstream Park main track. He won the nearly identical Grade 3 Smile Sprint in September and has won at seven furlongs so his 12/1 starting odds are way out of line as he fits on every count.

Wind of ChangeHaikalSleepy Eyes ToddFirenze Fire and Ebben are all horses I’ll use on exacta tickets along with the three contenders above.

Handicapper Picks


Last Judgement AND Cool Arrow to win at 4 to 1

Diamond Oops is unlikely to go to post at even 5/2 or less so we will just use him on exacta tickets.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. AmWager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.


Last JudgementDiamond Oops and Cool Arrow over Last Judgement Diamond OopsCool ArrowWind of ChangeHaikalFirenze Fire and Ebben.

It will be exciting to see how the races play out. Will our handicapper’s picks win? Will there be an upset? Only time will tell!

If you want to hear more tips, picks, and more from AmWager, check out our horse racing podcast.

See how your picks matched up with our handicapper’s picks for last week’s races.

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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