06/29/2005 11:00PM

No sunset yet for these three


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In almost any other way of life, Noble Threewitt, Warren Stute, and Leonard Dorfman would be spending Sunday afternoon dozing on a front porch swing, sipping cool lemonade, and enjoying the sight of the grandchildren playing ball on the lawn.

Instead, the work of these three racing pioneers will be very much on display at Hollywood Park. Stute, born in 1921, will be sending out the 3-year-old filly Thatswhatimean in the $750,000 American Oaks. Dorfman, a foal of 1922, will be an interested observer when his former stable star McCann's Mojave runs in the $350,000 Triple Bend Invitational. And Threewitt, who hit the ground in 1911, will take center stage on Sunday to receive the Laffit Pincay Award, from Pincay himself, for service to the game.

It could be argued, and all three men would agree, that Threewitt has the toughest task. It goes against their taciturn, Midwestern nature to stand in a spotlight that says, "Hey, look at me." Asked what he was going to do about giving some sort of speech, Threewitt mulled things over for a minute and then suggested, "Maybe I should let Leonard do it. He's a little more talkative than me."

They go back as far as 1947, when Threewitt hired Dorfman as a groom. Both men were trying to pick up where they left off before the war - Dorfman fought in northern Europe, while Threewitt was wounded during the Italian campaign - when California racing was in recovery from a near-total wartime blackout.

These days Threewitt and Dorfman collaborate as members of the board of directors of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Foundation. They meet regularly at the Noble Threewitt Health Clinic at Santa Anita to ponder ways to maintain funding for backstretch health and welfare, an ongoing challenge.

"You can say Noble really established the foundation and the clinic," Dorfman said. "I'm not sure it would exist without him."

McCann's Mojave would not be among the contenders in the Triple Bend without the work of Dorfman, who guided the rangy son of Memo to five victories in his first 10 starts. Health concerns forced Dorfman to back away from his training duties this spring, and McCann's Mojave is now handled by Paddy Gallagher, who saddled the horse to win the Ack Ack Handicap in their first collaboration on June 11.

"It turned out to be a heart condition," Dorfman said. "They were going to put a pacemaker in me, but they changed their mind and put me on some medication. I feel fine now - I was just out trimming the bushes - but I could use the break, even though I really hated to give up that horse."

McCann's Mojave will have no easy road in the Triple Bend against the likes of Forest Grove, Unfurl the Flag, Mass Media, and St Averil going seven furlongs. Class runs deep in the 10-furlong American Oaks as well, in which Thatswhatimean will try to win her first stakes race in the face of an international field that includes fillies from Ireland, England, Italy, and Japan.

A daughter of Belong to Me, Thatswhatimean comes out of a solid second to Three Degrees in the nine-furlong Honeymoon Stakes, in which she led for all but the final yards under Jon Court.

"It's pretty hard to be in front all the way on the turf course here," Stute said. "We put the blinkers on her, and it kind of moved her up. So we put [David] Flores back on her this time, hoping he can rate her some.

"Mostly a trainer just drives himself crazy trying those kind of things," Stute went on. "He keeps on trying things until something works, then you think it was your good idea all along. I found out generally it's the horse."

Thatswhatimean is owned by B. Wayne Hughes, who sent Stute on the ride of a lifetime this spring in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness with Greeley's Galaxy, who was supplemented at a cost of $200,000. There was no fairy-tale ending, as the colt ran a troubled 11th at Churchill Downs and seventh at Pimlico.

"I'd love to win Sunday's race for Wayne," Stute said. "He's a pretty good guy. When I told him I messed up and didn't nominate Greeley's Galaxy to the Derby, he said, 'That's all right, Warren. You won the Illinois Derby with him, so I have the money.' Luckily, he never blamed me."

While Thatswhatimean carries the Stute stable hopes this summer, Greeley's Galaxy has been pinfired and turned out. Stute will be pointing the son of Mr. Greeley toward next winter's Strub Stakes a race for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita that the trainer won in 1951 with Great Circle and again in 1970 with Snow Sporting. If nothing else, Stute gets a kick out of his own durability.

"After I won the Del Mar Debutante in 2002" - with Miss Houdini - "a fellow showed me a picture of me winning the Debutante in 1951 with Tonga," Stute said.

"I told him I liked to win that race every 50 years or so," Stute added with a laugh. "He thought that was great, but he asked me to hurry up and do it again because he wasn't sure he'd be able to wait that long for the next one."