01/12/2007 1:00AM

Threewitt calling it a career

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Noble Threewitt, who began training in the early 1930's and has been a fixture at Santa Anita since the track opened in 1934, is retiring next month on his 96th birthday.

Threewitt, who has three horses in training at Santa Anita, was urged to retire by his family, particularly his wife, Beryl. Threewitt's 96th birthday is Feb. 24.

"I sure hate to retire," Threewitt said on Friday. "She wanted me to quit."

Threewitt said he plans to remain active with his presidency of bred Horsemen's Foundation on the Santa Anita backstretch. The foundation has a clinic, the Noble Threewitt Health Clinic, that provides health care services to backstretch workers.

"I'll just come here," he said. "It sure will be different."

The winner of more than 2,000 races, Threewitt has been a popular figure in California racing for decades as a trainer and a leading authority on backstretch matters. Last April, at 95, he became the oldest trainer to win a race in North America when Threeatonce won a maiden claimer at Santa Anita.

Threewitt has trained such stakes winners as Correlation, the winner of the 1954 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial, and the multiple stakes winners Debonaire Junior, Devoted Brass, Honey's Gem, Old Topper, Perizade, and Theresa's Tizzy.

Old Topper, who won three stakes in 1998, and Theresa's Tizzy, a two-time stakes winner in 2000, are two of Threewitt's more recent successes.

In recent years, Threewitt has trained just a few horses, but has been a fixture at his barn, arriving at approximately 3:30 a.m. daily. On a typical day, he returns home in the early morning and goes to the clinic at 9 a.m., where he stays until noon.

Threewitt has suffered from vision problems in his right eye in recent months.

"I feel pretty good, but not real good," he said.

He said he has other people saddle horses for him, and no longer attends the races.

"I haven't been to the track for two or three months," he said. "I've had good horses and trained for some nice people."

Last year, Threewitt had 2 winners from 22 starters. A ceremony is scheduled for Threewitt at Santa Anita on Feb. 24, track officials said.