Noble Threewitt, the oldest Thoroughbred racing trainer in North America at the age of 95, sent out the final runner of a career that has spanned 75 years on Friday when his Threeatonce, a 17-1 shot, finished third among nine starters in the fifth race at Santa Anita.
Threewitt plans to make his retirement official on Feb. 24, his 96th birthday, when Santa Anita will host a ceremony in the track’s winner circle where the trainer first officially visited on Santa Anita’s fifth day of business in 1934.
“This is my last horse,” Threewitt said before overseeing paddock preparations for Threeatonce, a 4-year-old gelding that provided his last of more than 2,000 career victories on April 22, 2006 at Santa Anita.
Threeatonce is owned by the Triple Play Stables of Chris Chinnici, of Newport Beach, who is the grandson of Threewitt and his wife of 73 years, Beryl. The trainer and his spouse were greeted warmly by friends and fans who had surrounded the saddling paddock on Friday.
The gelding was saddled for the $12,500 claiming race by Threewitt’s colleague, Robert Bean. Threewitt has been plagued by an ailment to his right eye which has limited his activities and hastened his retirement.
Born in Benton, Ill., Threewitt obtained his trainer’s license at Caliente racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, at the age of 21 when becoming the youngest trainer in North America. He saddled his first winner, a horse named Crackerjack, at Caliente in 1932. He remembers watching the legendary Phar Lap run at Caliente that year.
The most notable horse he has trained was Correlation, who won both the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial as a 3-year-old in 1954. Correlation was favored in the 1954 Kentucky Derby, but finished sixth before running second to Hasty Road in the Preakness.
Threewitt continues to serve as president of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, whose mission is to improve the quality of life of backstretch workers. He has worked in that capacity for 20 years without compensation. Santa Anita’s backstretch medical facility was renamed the Noble Threewitt Health Center in his honor three years ago.