Noble Threewitt, a thoroughbred trainer for 75 years who was known in Southern California for his friendly, gentle demeanor and dedication to helping workers in the barn areas, died of natural causes Friday at an assisted living facility in West Covina, said his grandson Chris Chinnici. He was 99.
"He was a great man and did so much for racing," trainer Henry Moreno said. "They don't make them like him anymore."
Born on Feb. 24, 1911, in Benton, Ill., Noble Winfield Threewitt trained more than 2,000 winners after taking out a trainer's license at age 21 in 1931 at Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana.
He won three consecutive trainer titles at Hollywood Park starting in 1959. When he retired on his 96th birthday, Feb. 24. 2007, the city of Arcadia declared it "Noble Threewitt Day" at the Santa Anita racetrack.
He saddled his first winner in 1932 and his last in 2006. He once won nine consecutive races.
He served six terms as president of the California Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Assn. and more recently was president of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Foundation. Santa Anita's backstretch medical facility was renamed the Noble Threewitt Heath Center. In 2005, Threewitt received Hollywood Park's Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, given annually to recognize an individual who has served the sport of thoroughbred racing with distinction.
Threewitt saw the history of horse racing in Southern California unfold before his eyes and was there on the day Santa Anita opened in 1934. He spent 50 years training in a barn next to Hall of Famer Charles Whittingham.
In 1984, when he was 73 and not winning as many races as in the past, Threewitt told The Times, "I got in a slump and then I guess everybody started noticing my age. But I'm no dumber or smarter now than I've ever been."
His best horse was Correlation, who won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial and was the favorite in the 1954 Kentucky Derby but finished sixth after popping a splint bone.
Threewitt's longevity and dedication to horse racing were much admired by his fellow horsemen.
"I'm 83, and I claimed a horse off him when I was 24 or 25, and he was so nice," trainer Mel Stute said. "He was always a gentleman. In my opinion, he was a legend in horse racing."
Retired trainer Leonard Dorfman, 88, said, "There was no one better. He was probably the classiest guy I've ever known. I worked for him for five years and it was probably the happiest days of my life. He had a good feeling about a horse. He could look at a horse and give you a good opinion. He'd be at the barn about the time the grooms were getting out of bed."
This year Threewitt celebrated his 77th year of marriage to his wife, Beryl. She died on July 12 at age 98.
He is survived by three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Services will be private.