12/15/2011 5:20PM

The Lou Lepper Christmas cards: 1947


1947 Christmas cardGood Luck to You
at the Starting Gate,
May Your Breaks
Be Fast in ’48.

  Lou Lepper

Well, here I am again!

Just in case you may have forgotten me, I’m Off-Islander, the very same horse who greeted you on this Christmas card two years ago. I was only a baby then, “going on two.” Now I’m a mature old campaigner who will celebrate his fourth birthday on January 1. How time flies!

Naturally, some of my good friends will be asking how I am doing since I’ve gone to the races. Fine, thanks, and I hope you’re the same. I’ve thrown dust in the faces of some great horses – and I mean great. For instance, I beat Loyal Legion, who made such an excellent showing on the New York tracks that he was invited to start – and did – in the Pimlico Winner-Take-All Special. He had to be good to get into that heat. Another fine stake-horse that I beat was Camargo who has beaten Cosmic Missle, who, in turn, has beaten the best of the three-year-olds. This Camargo hoss also ran third to Snow Goose and Gallorette in the Beldame. Any follower of the races can tell you what that means.

1947 cover detailI hope all you good people had a bet on me that day in July, 1946, when I won at Jamaica and paid $214 to win $96.60 to place and $62.60 to show. You didn’t? Lou must have forgotten to tell you I was going to put one over that afternoon. I’m afraid he almost forgot to tell himself, because almost all the money he bet on me was in the books, instead of in the mutuels. Kinda tough to get paid on 15 to 1 when the mutuel odds were 106 to 1, eh what!

I guess Lou Lepper could have used that money, too, for he has been having such bad luck in getting the worst of close finishes that his friends around the track now call him, “Second-Hole Lou.”

Just in case you have forgotten, I’ll tell you again how I got that funny name, Off-Islander. It seems that the natives of Nantucket call everybody who doesn’t live there an “off islander,” which is equivalent to saying that nobody amounts to much unless he can claim descent from one of the old whaling families. William T. Barbour, one of Lou’s good friends, suggested the name.

All of this biographical dope is just a prelude to the main purpose of this greeting, which is to wish you the merriest Christmas and the happiest New Year that you have ever had – from Lou Lepper and me. Aren’t we fortunate to live in America, the only country in the world today where these words do not have a completely hollow ring? Here in our country, Christmas can be merry and the coming year can be happy for almost everybody. What a contrast to the misery and fear that prevail everywhere else.

It seems to me that the spirit of sincere thanksgiving should mingle with the spirit of Christmas cheer, too. Let’s drink a Christmas toast to our fore-fathers who established a government under which it would be possible to develop and hold the things we now enjoy. Let’s pledge ourselves to keep it that way.
                                                                                                                           - Off Islander


(Off-Islander (Isolater-Opera Bouffe), featured on at least two of Lepper's cards, raced from age 2-4.  He had 34 starts, 5 wins, 5 seconds, 5 thirds, and earnings of $21,110.  Off-Islander died at age 4 on June 18, 1948 from a broken leg suffered in the Smyrna Purse at Delaware Park.  Mr. Lepper was obviously greatly saddened by his horse's death, as Off-Islander is mentioned in his next two Christmas cards.)

Daily Racing Form article about Off-Islander's death: http://kdl.kyvl.org/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=drf1940s&cc=drf1940s&xc=1&idno=drf1948061901&g=drf&q1=off-islander&node=drf1948061901%3A30.2&frm=frameset&seq=30_2 

The Lou Lepper Christmas cards

Click images for a closer look at each card and to read Lepper's Christmas messages. All Christmas card images by Barbara D. Livingston from her collection.

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Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Wonderful. Lou's writing is intimate. We call some races "invitationals," & so should these cards be described. Another writer of that era was Joe Palmer, whose posthumous book, "This Was Racing," is equally endearing. See if you can if this 1953 classic, somewhere. Esteemed by many, you probably won't find it in the Lyrical Ballad, since the current owners of TWR in the Saratoga area are likely to be loath to surrender this singular tour de force of good-humored commentary. Time to sign off. My cherished Orphan Brigade (age 10!) is running tonight in the 6th at Delta Downs. These are the horses that became The Forgotten when, decades ago, people such Mr. Lepper passed on & then the sport became dangerously imbalanced, increasingly more & more All About The Betting. That, incidentally, is when some racing traditions - such as the sending of these charming Christmas Cards - tended to also became orphans. Forever, now, today - unless it's an obligatory message (oh, goody, another email, how rare) from a breeder or a supplier or any of the auxiliary heart-of-stone organizations which we could do without, nicely.