Opinions & Features Success Story March 07, 2021 at 12:00 pm

Senegal’s teenage jockey Fallou Diop is ready to take on the world

Ama Nunoo March 07, 2021 at 12:00 pm

March 07, 2021 at 12:00 pm | Opinions & Features, Success Story

Diop strokes a young mare called Raissa Betty. Photo: Zohra Bensemra,/Reuters

Horse racing has been a part of Senegalese culture for more than five decades. A young jockey is on his way to world domination winning his first race. Fallou Diop has a passion for horseracing and according to GMA, he is one of the country’s most promising jockeys.

The 19-year-old jockey won Senegal’s top horse racing prize when he was just 17. He has won some other minor races in recent times and aspires to conquer other races outside his home country. He has his eyes set on France and Morocco.

Diop lives with 12 of his family members. He dropped out of school at the age of 12 and took up a tailoring apprenticeship. The young lad decided to put that on the back burner and pursue his passion for horse racing and it has since paid off.

He has been able to renovate the roofing of his home with the funds from his winnings, sometimes getting as much as $600 per race.

Horses, mules, and donkeys are a big part of Senegalese culture. These animals are used for transportation and agriculture. So, most children grow up around horses and usually, the skills are passed down from generation to generation.

“The elders taught us everything since we were young,” Diop says. “And that’s how I became passionate about horses. Since my grandfather, we’ve supported horses, then my father after him.”

The nearest training program, according to BBC, is 10 miles away and it is run by Adama Bao. Bao’s family has maintained these grounds for three generations, and he believes with the momentum Diop is going, the gifted jockey can excel in sports racing for the next 50 years.

At a recent race in Thiès, Senegal’s third-largest city, Dip won three out of five races, winning about $1000 in prize money, but he aspires for more.

“When I start riding, I get a bit stressed,” he says. “But after a moment, it’s over. At the time of the race, I’m only thinking of victory.”

Diop wants to race on the world stage and he has plans of commencing training sessions in France led by Bao for three months in early 2022 to race for a French-Senegalese breeder.

Photojournalist Zohra Bensemra, of Reuters, documented Diop’s training in these stunning pictures.

Diop (center) competes in a race that is held weekly by the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP.
Fallou Diop rides a young mare, called Raissa Betty, out of the Lambafar stable, in Niaga, Senegal, 27 January 2021
Diop on his horse
Adama Bao speaks to Diop and other jockeys before a race at the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP.

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