Having won Senegal’s top prize two years ago, jockey Fallou Diop, still only 19, hopes to realise his dream of racing in France next year.

“I want to be the best jockey in a country other than mine,” he says.

“In Morocco or France, anywhere there is horse racing.”

Fallou Diop rides a young mare, called Raissa Betty, out of the Lambafar stable, in Niaga, Senegal, 27 January 2021

Zohra Bensemra, of Reuters, documented Diop’s training.

Fallou Diop rides a horse in Niaga, Senegal, 27 January 2021

Often used for agriculture and transport, horses, donkeys and mules are an integral part of daily life in Senegal.

And racing has rapidly grown into a national pastime.

Fallou Diop walks with a young mare, called Raissa Betty, in Niaga, Senegal, 27 January 2021

“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.”

Fallou Diop hugs his horse at the Lambafar stable in Niaga, Senegal, 27 January 2021

Having already dropped out of school, Diop was 12 when he decided to leave a tailoring apprenticeship and pursue horse racing.

According to his father, he walked 10 miles to enrol in the nearest training programme.

Fallou Diop prepares hay for the horses at the Lambafar stable in Niaga, Senegal, 27 January 2021

Diop lives in a house with 12 other family members, in Niaga.

And with victory prizes of up to $600 (£426) per race, he has been able to fund a new roof for their home.

Fallou Diop sits next to his mother Ndeye Boye and brothers and sister, who is carrying her son, at their home in Niaga, Senegal, 28 January 2021

Diop and other jockeys in Niaga are taught by Adama Bao, whose family has maintained a stud farm for three generations.

“[Diop] is very gifted,” Bao says.

“He could compete up to 50 years, with his weight and size.”

Adama Bao, a coach who owns the Lambafar stable, speaks to Fallou Diop and other jockeys before a race at in Thies, Senegal, 31 January 2021

Dressed in vibrant yellow and blue, Diop recently put his skills to the test at the racetrack in Thiès, Senegal’s third largest city.

Fallou Diop competes at a race in Thies, Senegal, 7 Feburary 2021
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Fallou Diop competes in a race in Thies, Senegal, 7 February 2021

He went on to finish first in three of his five races that day, taking home nearly $1,000 (£710) in winnings.

Fallou Diop is handed prize money after winning a race in Thies, Senegal, 7 February 2021

“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.”

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