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."
Santa Anita Chairman Frank Stronach dropped into the Directors Room and wasted no time in proposing a nuptial agreement. The match would be between Stronach's Primal Force, the dam of Awesome Again, and Silver Charm, the Kentucky Derby winner belonging to Beverly and Bob Lewis of Newport Beach. A dalliance with Mr. Charm carries a $25,000 price tag, we're told.
Among those spotted at chef Tom O'Connor's lavish buffet were Arcadia Mayor Gary Kovacic and his wife, Barbara; Bingo and Gino Roncelli; Diane and Don Johnson; Susan and Bob Tourtelot; Frank De Marco, Andrea and John Van de Kamp and their aspiring-actress daughter, Diana; Jan and Bill Baker; Elsie and John Sadler; Karen and Cliff Goodrich; Debbie and Terry Lanni; Carol and Del Shofner; Tammy and Chip Cushman and their 2-month-old son, Tim; Del Mar Race Track execs Joe Harper and Roland Baugh; and trainer Richard Mandella.
It was Mandella's 3-year-old colt, Dixie Union, ridden by Alex Solis, that won the sixth race of the day. Dixie Union beat out the favorite, Caller One, to win the $200,000 Malibu Stakes.