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Santa Claus Visits the Fair Grounds

New Orleans is a very Catholic city. A city that is passionate for its holidays, especially Christmas. As children we anxiously await the coming of the Christmas holiday in hopes of Santa bringing us a toy or bauble we have dreamed of as a token of the season of giving. As adults we see Christmas as an observation of the remembrance of the birth of Christ and a time to teach our children about the magic of the season. Every once in a while something happens to remind the adults there is still a little Christmas magic left, even for them.

Snow at Fair GroundsSnow at Fair Grounds in 1952Santa Claus 1976Santa Claus wins on Christmas Eve 1976Santa has been known to pay an occasional visit to the Fair Grounds and sprinkle a little Christmas magic on the racing fans of New Orleans. If you talk to the old timers, there is a legend of how it happened back years ago. Memories tend to give more color to legends but it really has happened more than once. So get a cup of warm café au lait and a beignet, sit next to the fire with your laptop and listen to this Christmas tale.

'Twas Christmas Eve on Gentilly Blvd. in 1976 and the racetrackers were celebrating by betting on a few bob-tailed nags.

The first two races were run and Daily Double done, it looked like a chalk eaters Christmas.

The third race was up and a suspicious entry did appear. It wasn't a miniature sleigh or eight tiny reindeer.

But what to my wandering eye did appear an entry named Santa Claus was No. 4 on the program.

He was a 9-year-old so he was getting a little old for believing in the magic of the season but he was carrying a bug boy and got a five-pound weight allowance to make it all even.

The public made him the second choice and as the latch sprung the announcer sung "They're off" in his caroling voice.

Santa was reserved early off the leaders letting the others prompt the pace as he organized his delivery route to the good little girls and boys place.

He rallied along the inside fence leaving the backstretch as the rest began to falter.

The handling by the bug boy was strong, with a left handed whip applied he shouted ... on Santa Claus ... let's make it a Merry Christmas for all and give all a good night.

He proved the best that day returning 2.60-to-1. Not exactly box cars, but still a nice little Christmas fund.

It's all right there in the Fair Grounds chart of the third race on December 24, 1976.

So if you end up at the track this holiday season remember Santa Claus might have left a little magic around for you.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to all!