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Feature: Champion jockey gets back on racetrack to promote horse industry in Xinjiang
2017-09-30 source:Xinhua
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Retired champion jockey Bapa is back on horseback, but this time, a greater ambition spurs him on - he is pursuing not medals, but a prosperous and modern horse industry for his hometown.

Unlike in his prime, when he was one of the best jockeys in his club, the 41-year-old rider now performs in a daily show in Zhaosu County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Dressed in navy blue silk and a black helmet, Bapa rides a tall white Orlov trotter in a 10-minute horse parade, which is more like a model show of horses than a race. A dozen of horses of various famous breeds are introduced as they trot through the 500-meter racetrack. Then Bapa leaves the track to make way for riders who perform acrobatics on horseback.

He still misses those good old days when he dashed to the finish line. But he enjoys his current work all the same, because he views it as a way to promote the local horse industry.

That's why he returned home to the prairie from developed southern China.

Bapa was born in an Mongolian herder's family in Zhaosu County, which boasts lush pastures and is home to Akhal-teke steeds, the most purebred horse in the world.

The renown horse-breeding area also nurtures excellent equestrians, like Bapa, who left home at the age of 16 to become a top jockey in south China's metropolis Guangzhou and later a coach and horse trainer in Shenzhen City after he retired from the racetrack.

Zhaosu people have long been raising horses, but they received limited financial returns because most of the horses are draft horses, says Li Hai, an official in charge of horse industry development in Zhaosu.

Today, Zhaosu is determined to upgrade its horse tradition into a modern industry as an effort to boost local economy. Huge amount of funds have been spent in breed improvement, infrastructure construction and organizing equestrian events. The county also needs talented horse riders, like Bapa.

Bapa took up the challenge without hesitation. "Zhaosu is my home," he said. "Now, she has an opportunity, and I will definitely come back to her."