James “JJ” Gonzalez and Francisco Calderon have been at the top of their games at this American Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa race meet and are being recognized as Lip Chip Trainer and Jockey of the Week at Remington Park for the week of March 28-30.

Gonzalez only started five horses all week, but he was blistering hot with three winners. He also had a second-place finish with another for an incredible winning percentage of 60 percent and 80 percent in the money (first, second or third). Calderon won 3-of-10 this past week and hit the board in 70 percent of his races.

Gonzalez’s winners were Im Missmerized, Valiants Dash and Tempt Me Sass. Sapphyre was the horse that ran second for him. Calderon’s trips to the winner’s circle included two for Gonzalez – Valiants Dash and Tempt Me Sass. His other victorious trip was in the saddle of Air Force for trainer Toby Keeton.

The fire lit underneath the Lip Chip trainer and jockey for the week propelled them in their respective standings as well. Gonzalez moved up from a tie for 15th two weeks ago to a tie for seventh after his three wins. Calderon stayed in third place in the standings, but moved one win closer to top riders Roman Cruz and Ali Rivera, who have scored 13 victories since the meet started. Calderon has 11. The rest of the top five are Gonzalo Gutierrez tied in third with Calderon and L. Salvador Martinez riding into a solo spot in fifth with nine wins.

Whitekiller Tops Standings into April
Matt Whitekiller leads the standings for trainers with 13 victories, followed by last year’s leading trainer Dee Keener in second with 11. The rest of the top five are John Stinebaugh and Trey Wood tied with eight and 12-time training title holder Eddie Wills and Luz Chavira holding on in fifth with six apiece. Gonzalez has five wins.

Whitekiller, 58, who was raised in Sallisaw and has lived in Gans for years, about 10 miles south of Sallisaw, finished fourth in the standings last year at Remington Park and said he really doesn’t list being top trainer here as a goal.

“I really don’t think about it,” he said. “I just want to have a good meet. But don’t get me wrong, I’d take it when I’d get it.”

Whitekiller has won 301 races with Quarter Horses for $3,541,288 in earnings, but it is the Paint and Appaloosa world for which he lives and dies. Since he began his official training career in 1993, his Paints and Apps have won 427 races and bankrolled $5,999,084.

Why not? Whitekiller got his start in that industry by working for Lew Wartchow’s barn, who was the all-time winner in Paints and Apps for years on end. Whitekiller finally tied the late great Wartchow for most wins (five) in the Grade 1 Oklahoma Paint and Appaloosa Futurity stakes series.

“I was kind of shocked in a sense; I had no idea,” Whitekiller said. “That means an awful lot to me. He was such a father figure. I’m sure if he was still around, it wouldn’t have been the case. His five would have been about 10.”

He worked under the Wartchow barn for about 10 years before going out on his own.

Whitekiller gets his competitive nature from being involved in sports since he was a kid. He played college basketball as a shooting guard for Carl Albert Junior College in Poteau, Okla. from 1984-86 and has rubbed elbows with some great athletes, including his son Trent, along his life’s journey.

“Living in Gans, I used to officiate high school basketball games there,” he said. “I remember seeing Bryant Reeves (Big Country, an Oklahoma State University All-American and star for the Vancouver Grizzlies in the NBA when that team was in Canada). It was pretty amazing seeing how much bigger he was than most of those kids in Class A. I still see him all the time.”

Whitekiller’s son Trent was an All-American golfer at Oklahoma State University. He said both his sons were excellent athletes. Trent played semi-pro golf up until last year. Having grown up in Sallisaw, he also was familiar with former University of Oklahoma All-American quarterback Steve Davis’ family.

“I played a lot of golf with his father,” said Whitekiller.

Whitekiller and his wife Robin have raised their two boys (Trent and Shane). He loves them so much that he sacrificed a special weekend recently at Remington Park. Whitekiller won two stakes races two weeks back – the Oklahoma Paint and Appaloosa Futurity with Wire Transfer and the Paul Harber Stakes with Livewires Turnpike.

“I had to go to my son’s wedding; family comes first,” he said.

Remington Park racing continues this week with a Thursday-Sunday schedule. First post time is 6 p.m. CDT nightly except for Sundays when the first race goes off at 4 p.m.

Remington Park has provided more than $345 Million to the State of Oklahoma general education fund since the opening of the casino in 2005. Located at the junction of Interstates 35 & 44, in the heart of the Oklahoma City Adventure District, Remington Park presents simulcast racing daily and non-stop casino gaming. The Remington Park Futurity for Oklahoma-breds is featured on April 27. The 2024 American Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa Season continues through June 1. starts its 50-date season. Parking and admission are always free. Must be 18 or older to wager on horse racing or enter the casino gaming floor. Visit remingtonpark.com for more information.