Island Champ, a nonwinner since March of last year when he won the prestigious John B. Campbell Handicap, held off the late rush of Epilogue to win the $25,000-added Goss L. Stryker Handicap by three-quarters of a length yesterday in Bowie's closing-day feature.
Favored Castelets was blocked while making his run and had to settle for third, four lengths farther back.
Island Champ ($11.60), trained by former Washington Senators outfielder Hank Allen and ridden by Wayne Barnett, stalked the pace of Tim Tamber and Count My Love to the far turn. At that point, Barnett had to steady for several strides while making a move between horses before getting clear sailing.
"It was a tight squeeze around the half-mile pole," Barnett said.
Meanwhile, Epilogue and Castelets were moving as a team from far back. Jockey Paul Nicol steered Epilogue around horses at the head of the stretch while Castelets ran into a tiring horse and had to be steadied by jockey Jack Kaenel.
In the run to the wire, Barnett put Island Champ to severe punishment to prevail in 1:46 1/5 for the 1 1/16 miles over a fast strip.
Allen said afterward, "He is nominated to the Native Dancer at Laurel. He'll go in that if he's okay."
A crowd of 10,154 wagered $1,605,642 on the final day of winter racing in the history of Bowie -- the pioneer of winter racing in the East. The meeting's average handle was $1,005,254, a rise of 5.1 percent over last year. Attendance averaged 6,604, a decline of 1.3 percent.
The leading rider was Alberto Delgado with 16 victories, two more than apprentice Sean Jones.
Bowie, expected to close next year, has a summer meeting scheduled.
Laurel Race Course, now under the management of Frank DeFrancis, owner of Freestate Raceway, opens for a 42-day meeting on Monday.