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Diehard horse-racing fans, hardy jockeys and horses braved the snow and cold at Bowie Race Course

Bowie Race Course seldom bowed to the elements. In its 28 years of winter racing, until the track closed in 1985, hard-core (and sometimes frost-bitten) railbirds braved snow, sleet and hail to bet on the nags that ran at the stark, no-frills oval.

Jockeys steered their mounts around 4-foot snowbanks shoved to the side. Still, the crowds came. In 1964, a dozen racegoers were injured when struck by huge drifts that slid off the roof of the grandstand after the second race. The betting went on.

“When it snows, Bowie goes,” track officials crowed. On Feb. 8, 1958, more than 18,000 fans celebrated Opening Day of the winter season in biting cold temperatures and “b-b-bitter winds,” The Sun wrote. One week later, a blizzard trapped more than 2,000 patrons at the track. Nonplussed, they huddled there overnight, shooting dice and playing cards.

“The Bowie Breed,” they were called, the cigar-smoking fans who would thumb through dog-eared copies of the Daily Racing Form with one hand while warming the other with their breath. Common sense be damned.

“Bowie proved that the rugged could make it,” rider Gregg McCarron told The Sun in 2014. “Jockeys from Florida would come without enough warm clothes for the race and leave saying, ‘I can't wait to get out of here.’”

There was one advantage to racing there, onetime jockey and 1983 Preakness winner Donnie Miller Jr. recalled: “Because of the cold, not many [bettors] came down to the fence to call you names, if you rode a bad one.”

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