For Noble Threewitt, last week's opening day at Santa Anita was one in a long line of season openings. The venerable thoroughbred trainer, who turns 90 in February, is still active in the craft that he's been plying since 1931.
At 21, he was the youngest trainer in North America when he began at Caliente in Tijuana, where he saw the great Phar Lap run. He's been at the grand opening of five California racetracks--including Santa Anita in 1934--and has won more than 2,000 races in his career. Threewitt's love for the turf even introduced him to his bride, Beryl, whose father, W.D. Buck, also was a trainer. The couple, who've been married 52 years, were among the guests in the Directors Room of the Turf Club on Dec. 26 who gathered to honor the memory of racing industry legend Clement L. Hirsch. Hirsch, who died in March, co-founded the Oak Tree Racing Assn. in 1969 with veterinarian Jack Robbins and owner-breeder Louis Rowan.
"Clement was one of California's greatest contributors to racing in the last century," said Robbins. "Under his leadership the acorn grew into a huge oak tree." Robbins joined Santa Anita President Jack Liebau and Oak Tree Executive Vice-President Sherwood Chillingworth in unveiling artist Clara Aly's portrait of Hirsch with his black stallion Magical Mile, which will be displayed in the clubhouse. Looking on with pride was Hirsch's widow, Lynn. "Clement loved the horses and he loved track people," she said. "He would be so pleased by this."