The legacy of Niger’s most famous stallion, Dokin Iska Dan Filingue, that raced in front of Queen Elizabeth II in 1956 lives on in a neglected corner of the country’s capital, Niamey.
“We have the space, we could build a hotel, a conference centre. All of the races could be organised, it could be institutionalized and jobs could be created. But here, everything is deserted,” says Alio Dauda, a breeder and a member of the Féniseq (Nigerien Federation Equestrian Sports)
Although this dusty racing track is a far cry from the nation’s equine glory days when horses bred in the country enjoyed international fame, the country’s small racing scene hopes that its past glories can be revived with the construction of a new horse racing complex.
We have the space, we could build a hotel, a conference centre. All of the races could be organised, it could be institutionalized and jobs could be created. But here, everything is deserted.
“One learns to ride from childhood. I was making a lot of races upcountry, but came to Niamey, “says Noura Idi jockey.
Here, gamblers, professional jockeys, trainers and bookmakers all jostle to make money and entertain the crowds.
Niger’s love affair with all things equine is largely down to the global success of Dokin Iska Dan Filingue whose name in Hausa means ‘the horse of the wind from Filingue (a town in the country).
Filingué was immortalised in a song by the celebrated Hausa singer and storyteller Ibrahim Narambada who died in 1960 which proclaims that the horse, an Arewa native to Niger, won at every race course in the country, sources say
And according to leading lights in the local racing world, the key to racing success in Niger may not simply rest with horse and rider.
France 24’s Patrick Fort reports that one respected former jockey who notably rode in Nigeria, said the secret to victory was to find and sacrifice a red goat.