Iconic Noble Threewitt, who trained horses for 75 years and was a venerated backstretch presence in California, has died at the age of 99, his grandson confirmed Sept. 18.
Christopher Chinnici, in an email announcement, said the Southern California conditioner died Sept. 16. Threewitt officially retired as an active trainer on his 96th birthday, Feb. 24, 2007.
Threewitt, who arrived at his barn each morning at about 4 a.m. right up until he decided to retire, was well recognized in the industry for his contributions on the backstretch as well as for his success on the racetrack. The City of Arcadia declared his retirement to be "Noble Threewitt Day."
A native of Benton, Ill., Threewitt was believed to be the youngest trainer in the nation when he first took out his license at age 21 in 1931. He began his career at Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, and went on to win more than 2,000 races.
Threewitt was on hand to witness the opening of Santa Anita Park in 1934 as well as Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Bay Meadows, and Golden Gate Fields in California and Longacres Racetrack and Emerald Downs in Washington. He won three successive training titles at Hollywood Park from 1959-61 and at Golden Gate Fields in 1970. His most impressive training feat was winning with nine consecutive starters at old Tanforan Racetrack near San Francisco in April 1956.
His best horse was Correlation, who won the 1954 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial Stakes. On April 22, 2006, 95-year-old Threewitt became the oldest trainer to win a race in North America when Threeatonce, a horse owned by Chinnici, won a a maiden claiming race at Santa Anita.
Other stakes winners included King of Cricket, Cuzwuzwrong, Debonaire Junior, Honeys Gem, Devoted Brass, Cerise Reine, Perizade, Speedy Edie, Mountain Glory, Try Sheep, Hula Blaze, Sea Eagle, Hairless Heiress, Old Topper and Theresa's Tizzy.
A resident of Covina, Calif., he and his wife Beryl celebrated their 77th year of marriage in 2010. Beryl Threewitt died on July 12 at the age of 98.
He served six terms as president of the California Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, whose functions include the providing of free medical and dental benefits for stable workers and their families at a Santa Anita clinic. In 2004, Santa Anita Park renamed its backstretch medical facility the Noble Threewitt Health Center. He served 16 years as national HBPA vice president and was president of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Foundation. Threewitt was also a director emeritus of California Thoroughbred Trainers.
Threewitt was close friends with legendary trainer Charlie Whittingham. In 2005, he won Hollywood Park's Laffit Pincay Jr. Award for his extraordinary dedication to racing.
Late in his career, after his stable had dwindled, he told the Los Angeles Times: "The problem with living this long is that I've outlived all of the owners who kept me in good horses for so many years. I understand the alternative, but I had four or five owners who would each give me four or five of their top horses every year. I thought it was going to go on forever, but I finally ran out, and there's nothing much you can do with a bad horse."
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Foundation. Services will be private.