07/31/2003 12:00AM

Nobles's biggest win: Beating cancer


In his prime, trainer Reynaldo Nobles had as many as 150 horses in his barn. He became renowned for bringing back Deputy Minister from an injury to win the Tom Fool, the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, and the Donn Handicap in 1983. Ten years later, Nobles trained Dehere, a superb 2-year-old who became the first horse to sweep Saratoga's juvenile stakes series for males - the Hopeful, Saratoga Special, and Sanford - en route to an Eclipse Award.

But Nobles's accomplishments were an afterthought in late 1999 when doctors told him that he had colon cancer and that his chances of survival were only 50-50. Over the next three years, while he battled the disease, Nobles lost all interest in horses.

Eventually, the cancer went into remission, but Nobles had trouble finding a new vocation. He tried various jobs, including stints as a toll collector and an elementary school crossing guard.

This spring, reveling in his second chance at life, Nobles began his second career as a trainer at age 65. He has 12 horses under his care at Delaware Park. Coming into Saturday's program, he has a record of 2-2-4 from 19 starters at Delaware.

The first of his two newest winners came on June 30, when Toxic Level won a $12,500 maiden claiming route. On July 21, Country Be Gold gave Nobles his second win, in a two-turn allowance. Both horses are owned by S.A. Partnership.

"Before, sometimes I would get worked up about little things," Nobles said. "But now I do not let any of those things bother me. I have come to realize that as long as you are healthy, everything else can fall into place."

That's a far cry from his attitude after cancer was diagnosed. "When I was told about the cancer, it devastated me," he said.

Nobles had worked at racetracks since he was a 14-year-old rubbing horses at Oriental Park in his native Havana, Cuba. He had trained horses since 1970, but he gave up the sport to focus on his health problems. After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Nobles got better. He credits faith, positive thinking, and exercise.

"I went for treatments, but more importantly, I put myself in the hands of the good Lord and I am still here," he said. "I was actually in church, and something came over me that I should start walking. I worked myself up to four miles a day. I walked for exercise, ate properly, took the medication, and got the chemo and radiation therapy. Thankfully, it worked."

Nobles was out of the game for

3 1/2 years. His first step back occurred in April, when he was working as a security guard at a training center in Florida. A horse got sick, and Nobles ended up caring for him. Soon, he was offered a job training a string of horses at Delaware.

Nobles discovered that he had regained his passion for horses and that the racetrack was exactly where he belonged. "The feeling," Nobles said, "is wonderful."

Three-year-old fillies in turf feature

Spin Control and Little Miss Pamela, the one-two finishers in an overnight stakes three weeks ago, head a field of 10 3-year-old fillies in the $75,000 Denise Rhudy Memorial Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile race on turf Saturday.

Trained by Graham Motion, Spin Control won her turf debut going 1 1/16 miles on July 12, finishing a length in front of Little Miss Pamela, who won her previous start in a restricted stakes at Colonial Downs.

Two other threats are Lady Prantlack, who has been chasing Ocean Drive in her last two stakes starts in Kentucky and New York, and European import Rapid Ransom, who won going 1 1/4 miles over soft turf in Ireland.