POMONA, CA, SEPT. 18, 2010--Noble Threewitt, a training icon in California for more than seven decades who saddled Correlation to win the 1954 Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial before finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby as the 3-1 favorite in 1954, died Friday night at an assisted living facility in West Covina, his grandson, Chris Chinnici, said Saturday. Threewitt was 99.
Born Feb. 24, 1911, Threewitt trained for 75 years before retiring on his 96th birthday. The city of Arcadia, home to Santa Anita where Threewitt was a fixture at Barn 14, declared Feb. 24, 2007 to be "Noble Threewitt Day."
Born in Benton, Ill., Threewitt grew up in a small Illinois town where his father worked as an bookkeeper for a coal company. Introduced to horse racing at county fairgrounds, in his teens he rode in a few races in Kansas City but soon weight gain ended his days as jockey. In 1932 he embarked on a career as a professional trainer at Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico. At 21, he was the youngest-licensed American trainer at that time. At Agua Caliente Racetrack, Threewitt saddled his first winner in 1932 and was on hand when the great Australian champion Phar Lap came that year to win the Agua Caliente Handicap.
A year after Threewitt became a trainer, he met and married Beryl Buck, the daughter of fellow trainer, William D. Buck. When Santa Anita was built, Threewitt was there for the opening on Christmas Day, 1934.
"I was racing at Tanforan for purses of $400," he once said. "Purses at Santa Anita were $800, so it was an easy decision for me to come there."
Threewitt was on hand to witness the opening of four other major California racetracks: Hollywood Park (1938), Del Mar (1937), Bay Meadows (1934), and Golden Gate Fields (1941) as well as for the opening of Longacres and Emerald Downs in the state of Washington.
A permanent fixture in California racing, except for a few years in the 1930s when he trained in New York for John D. Hertz, Threewitt won training titles at Hollywood Park in 1959, 1960 and 1961, and at Golden Gate Fields in 1970. In April 1954, he won with nine consecutive starters at Tanforan in San Bruno, California.
The best horse Noble Threewitt conditioned was Correlation with which he won the 1954 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial Stakes. The betting favorite in the Kentucky Derby, in what Churchill Downs describes as one of the roughest Derbys ever run, the colt finished sixth to winner Determine then earned a second-place result behind Hasty Road in the Preakness Stakes. Of more recent vintage was Threewitt's stakes-winning sprinter, Old Topper.
On April 22, 2006, at age 95, Threewitt became the oldest trainer to win a race in North America when Threeatonce, owned by grandson Chinnici, won a maiden claiming race at Santa Anita. On his February 24, 2007 birthday, Threewitt officially retired as a trainer having won more than 2,000 races.
A long time friend of trainer Charlie Whittingham, in 1993 Hollywood Park named its new Horsemen's Lounge in their honor.
While working as a trainer, Threewitt also devoted a great deal of time to helping others in the racing industry. The late trainer Warren Stute told reporter Julie Sarno of the Del Mar Times that "Noble [Threewitt] has done more for the grooms and backstretch workers than all of us put together." .
Profoundly affected by the separation of his parents while still a young boy, he has always empathized with those in need. He served six terms as president of the California Horsemen's Benevolent 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 renamed its backstretch medical facility the Noble Threewitt Health Center.
In 2005, Noble Threewitt was the recipient of Hollywood Park's Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, given annually to someone who has served the sport of Thoroughbred racing with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination, and distinction.
Residents of Covina, California, Noble and Beryl Threewitt celebrated their 75th year of marriage in 2010. Beryl died on July 12, 2010 at the age of 98.
Chinnici said there will be no services.