Like he has for the better part of eight decades, Noble Threewitt was enjoying the toasty warmth of his heated tack room at Barn 14 Friday morning. Despite the fact that he has only three horses, he was at the barn at 5 a.m., as usual, even though the countdown is on.
On Feb. 24, his 96th birthday, the training legend who was on hand at Santa Anita when the track opened on Christmas Day, 1934, will officially retire.
What he does from that point is anyone’s guess.
“I’ve got this bad right eye that bothers me all the time,” Threewitt said. “I’m half-crazy fooling with it, but Beryl (his wife of 73 years) wants me to retire. I told her, ‘What am I going to do?’ But she’s set on it.”
Threewitt likely will send out his last horse Saturday, when Threeatonce, a 4-year-old gelding owned by his grandson, Chris Chinnici of Newport Beach, who races as Triple Play Stables, runs in the first race.
Beyond that, it should be business as usual, save for emotional farewells to his many friends and employees, two of whom are Eddie Stein, who has been with Noble for 35 years, and John Gaholston, a regular since 1986.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do after Noble retires,” Gaholston said. “I want to keep busy if I can. I don’t want to sit around watching television doing nothing.”
Santa Anita has given Threewitt a “lifetime pass” to use his office at Barn 14; but no matter what the future holds, Threewitt has left an indelible legacy.
“I’ve always admired his work ethic,” said 65-year-old trainer Bill Spawr. “He’s an early guy and a nice man. I have never heard anybody say a bad word about him, and in a sport where there’s so much jealousy and envy, that’s very rare.”
Added 96-year-old Eddie Logan, who, like Threewitt, has been at Santa Anita since it opened, operating his shoe shine stand: “I love him. He’s my man.”