Photos: Senegal’s young jockey's race to glory

  • A head shorter than his peers, Fallou Diop quickly vanishes into the crowd of jockeys preparing for early morning drills in the western Senegalese village of Niaga. When the racing begins, however, his crouched silhouette is far ahead of the field, aided by an effortless riding style. Diop is one of Senegal's most promising jockeys, having won the country's top racing prize when he was just 17. He hopes to begin racing in France next year, realizing a dream coveted by some of Senegal's foremost riders.

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST 13 Photos
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Fallou Diop, 19, a jockey, rides his horse during a training session on a field in Sangalkam, Senegal on January 28. "When I start riding I get a bit stressed, but after a moment, it's over," Diop told Reuters. "At the time of the race, I'm only thinking of victory."(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop, 19, a jockey, rides his horse during a training session on a field in Sangalkam, Senegal on January 28. "When I start riding I get a bit stressed, but after a moment, it's over," Diop told Reuters. "At the time of the race, I'm only thinking of victory."(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Fallou Diop strokes a young mare called Raissa Betty, whom he is currently training to race with in the future, as they walk along Lac Rose, also known as Lake Retba in Niaga, Rufisque region, Senegal, on January 27. "It's the elders who taught us everything since we were young, and that's how I became passionate about horses," Diop said.(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop strokes a young mare called Raissa Betty, whom he is currently training to race with in the future, as they walk along Lac Rose, also known as Lake Retba in Niaga, Rufisque region, Senegal, on January 27. "It's the elders who taught us everything since we were young, and that's how I became passionate about horses," Diop said.(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Fallou Diop rides Raissa Betty, whom he trains with, out of the Lambafar stable, in Niaga on January 27. Diop is one of Senegal's most promising jockeys, having won the country's top racing prize when he was just 17. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop rides Raissa Betty, whom he trains with, out of the Lambafar stable, in Niaga on January 27. Diop is one of Senegal's most promising jockeys, having won the country's top racing prize when he was just 17. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Adama Bao, a coach who owns the Lambafar stable, speaks to Fallou Diop and other jockeys before a race at the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP in Thies, Senegal on January 31. "[Diop] is very gifted and has a lot of skill," Bao told Reuters. "He could compete up to 50 years with his weight and size."(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Adama Bao, a coach who owns the Lambafar stable, speaks to Fallou Diop and other jockeys before a race at the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP in Thies, Senegal on January 31. "[Diop] is very gifted and has a lot of skill," Bao told Reuters. "He could compete up to 50 years with his weight and size."(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Fallou Diop and other jockeys prepare to compete in a race that is held weekly by the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP in Thies on February 7. "I want to be the best jockey in a country other than mine," Diop said. "In Morocco or France, anywhere there is horse racing." (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop and other jockeys prepare to compete in a race that is held weekly by the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP in Thies on February 7. "I want to be the best jockey in a country other than mine," Diop said. "In Morocco or France, anywhere there is horse racing." (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Fallou Diop, and other jockeys compete in a race that is held weekly by the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP in Thies on February 7, Horses are an integral part of life in Senegal. Horse-drawn buggies are ubiquitous across the country, and over the past 50 years, competitive racing has developed into a national pastime.(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop, and other jockeys compete in a race that is held weekly by the Hippodrome Ndiaw Macodou DIOP in Thies on February 7, Horses are an integral part of life in Senegal. Horse-drawn buggies are ubiquitous across the country, and over the past 50 years, competitive racing has developed into a national pastime.(Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Trophies awarded to Fallou Diop are displayed at his coach Adama Bao's home, who owns the Lambafar stable, in Dakar, Senegal on February 4. Depending on the number of horses in a race, Diop can earn up to $600 dollars per victory. Average monthly wages in Senegal were estimated at around $180 at the end of 2019. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Trophies awarded to Fallou Diop are displayed at his coach Adama Bao's home, who owns the Lambafar stable, in Dakar, Senegal on February 4. Depending on the number of horses in a race, Diop can earn up to $600 dollars per victory. Average monthly wages in Senegal were estimated at around $180 at the end of 2019. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Fallou Diop (C), warms up with other jockeys and stable boys in front of a campfire before an early morning training session in Sangalkam on January 30. Diop, who has dropped formal schooling, was 12 when he left a tailoring apprenticeship to pursue racing. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop (C), warms up with other jockeys and stable boys in front of a campfire before an early morning training session in Sangalkam on January 30. Diop, who has dropped formal schooling, was 12 when he left a tailoring apprenticeship to pursue racing. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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A young jockey rides his horse during an early morning training session on a field in Sangalkam on February 2. In villages like Niaga, where Diop lives, horse feed and supply shops line the main roads, and fields are dotted with men on horseback. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

A young jockey rides his horse during an early morning training session on a field in Sangalkam on February 2. In villages like Niaga, where Diop lives, horse feed and supply shops line the main roads, and fields are dotted with men on horseback. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Fallou Diop carries hay to be fed to the horses at the Lambafar stable in Niaga on January 27. According to his father, he was so determined that he walked 10 miles to enroll in the nearest training program when he began racing. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop carries hay to be fed to the horses at the Lambafar stable in Niaga on January 27. According to his father, he was so determined that he walked 10 miles to enroll in the nearest training program when he began racing. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Stable workers load horses onto a horse-box before a competition, outside the Lambafar stable in Niaga on February 7. Today, Diop and other jockeys in Niaga are taught by Adama Bao, whose family has maintained a stud farm near the salty shores of Senegal's Lac Rose for three generations. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Stable workers load horses onto a horse-box before a competition, outside the Lambafar stable in Niaga on February 7. Today, Diop and other jockeys in Niaga are taught by Adama Bao, whose family has maintained a stud farm near the salty shores of Senegal's Lac Rose for three generations. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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Fallou Diop eats a koni, a type of fruit, as he sits with stableboys at the Lambafar stable in Niaga on January 27. Bao plans to send Diop to France for three months in early 2022 to race for a French-Senegalese breeder. He would have travelled last year, Bao said, had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

Fallou Diop eats a koni, a type of fruit, as he sits with stableboys at the Lambafar stable in Niaga on January 27. Bao plans to send Diop to France for three months in early 2022 to race for a French-Senegalese breeder. He would have travelled last year, Bao said, had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST
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A stableboy rides a horse to a training field at the Lambafar stable in Niaga, Rufisque region, in Senegal on January 28, (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

A stableboy rides a horse to a training field at the Lambafar stable in Niaga, Rufisque region, in Senegal on January 28, (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 03:40 PM IST

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