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Horse Racing Returns to Mali's Hippodrome After COVID Shutdown

FILE - Jockeys wait during an afternoon of races at the hippodrome in N'djamena, Chad, March 15, 2015. Mali's stadium in Bamako recently reopened its horse races after closing for 8 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mali's iconic Hippodrome in Bamako recently reopened its traditional horse races on Sundays after closing in March due to COVID-19.

For jockeys like Mahamadou Tangara, the closure meant a complete loss of income.

On any given Sunday, a jockey can win between $91 (50,000 francs) and $182 (100,000 francs) in prize money.

No work means no winnings, Tangara said, adding that he felt nothing but difficulty for those eight months of shutdown.

The races started up again November 15 — and immediately, the sport’s large, loyal audience returned to the track.

Yacouba Dansoko, a sports journalist and race announcer, spoke about the importance of the races to the Malian public, saying that in terms of the audience, it's No. 1.

Soon after the races reopened, COVID-19 cases again rose sharply in Mali.

Some jockeys and organizers wear masks, but most of the audience appears indifferent to COVID precautions.

Officials are now discussing new COVID-19 countermeasures, which could include shutting down the races.

The jockeys would lose their livelihood again, but Dansoko said the community is ready to accept the shutdown if it means saving lives.