Jockey Chester Bonnet got off to a great start riding at Los Alamitos Race Course. Bonnet piloted the Robert Lucas owned and trained mare Southern Darling to victory in the second race on Friday night. The win made Bonnet’s riding record at Los Alamitos a perfect two for two during this new 2015-16 season.
“I love it at Los Alamitos,” said the 29-year-old rider. “I just love being in California, especially when you’re riding winners.”
The victory follows Bonnet’s victory at the Orange County oval during the daytime Winter Thoroughbred meet here on December 15. On that Thursday afternoon, Bonnet guided FNS Racing Stables’ Valentine Boy to a mile win for trainer Felipe Souza. It was the pilot’s first California win.
A native of the small town of Cankton in the St. Landry Parish in Louisiana, population of 484 at the 2010 census, Bonnet has been around horses and horsemen his entire life. His grandfather trained horses in Louisiana and his uncle galloped horses and also trained horses. Bonnet’s father, Chester Colligan, was a rider as well before also starting his training career.
“My dad did not want me to ride,” Bonnet said. “My dad was involved in a serious riding accident that left him paralyzed for a while. He wasn’t supposed to make, but not only did he live, but he had a full recovery.”
After regaining full use of his limbs, Colligan eventually turned to training horses, saddling 13 winners in the process. Meanwhile, Bonnet would have to wait until he could begin his riding career.
“I always enjoyed being around horses and as a kid I used to dream about riding. It wasn’t until I was over 18, adult age, that I started riding. Winning my first race for my dad is still the biggest moment of my riding career. It came aboard a filly that I had watched win 10 races. I got to rider her last win. That was a thrill.”
In his riding career, Bonnet has piloted 108 winners, 131 second place finishers, and 168 third place finishers to help him hit the board with over 21 percent of his mounts. With over 1,000 mounts under his belt, Bonnet made his way to the West Coast with his girlfriend, Catherine Williams.
“We met in New Orleans,” Bonnet said. “She went to Louisiana to be with her grandmother.”
Bonnet has also had the opportunity to ride across town at Santa Anita Park. In fact, a few hours prior to guiding Southern Darling to victory on Friday night, Bonnet rode Punk Fever for trainer Louis Bradvica at Santa Anita. A day earlier, Bonnet came close to winning at Santa Anita, as he finished second by a nose aboard Hugo Catalan’s 17-1 shot I’m No Patsy to the 11-1 shot Lil Cheyenne with Rafael Bejarano in the irons. Bonnet piloted I’m No Patsy for trainer Javier Sierra.
“It’s tough to get (mounts),” he said. “But I’m working hard and people have been honest with me. I appreciate the opportunities and I’m going to continue to work as hard as possible. I’m so thankful to God for giving me the ability and the opportunity to ride. I’m at the track at 5 a.m. to improve myself and to continue to stay in good physical shape. Catherine’s family has also been great. I’m so thankful for their support.”
The hard work is already paying off at Los Alamitos. Bonnet already has two wins at Los Al and looking for more.