Regal Count, a $9,500 purchase as a yearling in 1983, led from start to finish in defeating eight 3-year-olds in yesterday's $113,000 Governor's Cup Handicap at Bowie Race Course.
The Governor's Cup highlighted 71-year-old Bowie's final racing card, which drew a crowd of 12,012 and a betting handle of $1,715,598, both highs for its 36-day meeting. The track now will become a training facility.
Regal Count entered the Governor's Cup with two career victories and $19,329 lifetime earnings, less than any of his rivals. But the Bowie-based colt defeated a field that included six stakes winners to earn $89,650 for owner Alan Anthony.
Regal Count went to the post at 13 to 1 odds despite having won his previous allowance-race start by 19 lengths. He became the second stakes winner for trainer Vernon Allinson, 37.
Mario Pino rushed Regal Count from the gate to lead comfortably into the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile race, followed by Don's Choice, Tent Up and I Am The Game.
Regal Count maintained a two-length lead over Don's Choice into the backstretch, setting fractions of :23 and :47. But the field bunched just beyond the five-eighths pole, as I Am The Game rallied along the rail and 5-to-2 co-favorites Skip Trial and El Basco began advancing on the outside.
When Don's Choice fell out of second place briefly at the half-mile pole and Regal Count's lead diminished to a length, it appeared the local colts would be overmatched by their high-class, out-of-town foes. But Regal Count pulled away into the turn, increasing his lead to 2 1/2 lengths, and Don's Choice emerged from the pack to regain second, a length ahead of Skip Trial.
Regal Count was whipped steadily by Pino at the top of the stretch, where he led by three lengths. Don's Choice continued to run strong, Skip Trial weakened perceptibly after making a bid outside, and Salem Drive (5-2) charged into third place along the rail. Don's Choice made up ground on Regal Count, but he finished a neck short.
Salem Drive was third, two lengths behind the winner, who was clocked in 1:49 2/5.
"There wasn't a lot of speed in the race," said Pino. "I used a little of his speed to get the lead early."
"This is the biggest race I've ever (won)," said Allinson, who trains 10 horses stabled at Bowie. "(Regal Count) has finally come around."
Allinson said he plans to start Regal Count Saturday in Pimlico's $50,000 Survivor Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race.
Bowie's final meeting produced increases in attendance and handle over the 1984 summer meeting. The daily average attendance of 6,125 was up 9.4 percent, and the daily average handle of $909,491 was up 22.7 percent.
Ron Alfano led trainers with 18 victories.