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Jockey Jason Hoopert's scenic tour of tracks around Queensland

Hoops.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

When a terrible fall almost cost jockey Jason Hoopert his life, he needed to find another passion outside of racing.

Now 49 years of age and living in Mount Isa, Hoopert found photography as his second great desire over a decade ago following his near-fatal fall.

He is combining his two loves – horses and taking photos – by shooting countless race tracks across Queensland from above with his drone.

Hoopert estimates he has captured around 20 tracks in recent years, recently adding clubs such as Thangool, Emerald, Kilcoy, Monto, Alpha and Nanango, among others, to his list after long drive over the Christmas period of last year.

Living and working in Mount Isa over the last couple of years, the jockey with over 500 winners on his resume had already shot clubs like Mt Isa, Cloncurry and Julia Creek.

It started as an idea to better his riding, Hoopert details.

“At first it was just for me to help me as a jockey, to have another view and see where the turns are tight at different tracks,” he said.

“It would help me around when I should make moves.

“I always turned up early to walk the tracks when I rode and once, I got a drone, the drone would be up above me as I walked the track and I would watch my screen to see how tight turns were and things along those lines.

“It has eventuated from there and I have just decided to take as many photos of as tracks as I possibly can.”

During “Hoops'” recent long drive across the state, he returned to the track – Kilcoy - where he almost lost his life in early 2006 – which began his interest in taking photos.

Kilcoy-4th-Jan-2022.jpg

“I won the first race that day and then I clipped heals in the second race and came down,” he recalled.

“I was air lifted to Brisbane and woke up eight days later out of a coma on a full life support system.

"I was nearly killed that day.

“They told me I would never ride again but it took me four years of jumping through hoops and proving I was capable.

‘I had to find something that I was passionate about outside of racing and I found photography.

“I did eventually get my licence back so it was great to go past Kilcoy again recently.”

While Kilcoy brought back some distressing memories, Hoopert also returned to Gympie (pictured), where he picked up his first winner as a youngster in 1990, and Wondai, where he was based for a long time earlier in his career and won premierships as a rider. 

After departing Mount Isa, Hoopert drove across to Townsville – riding at Cluden Park in the process - before making his way down the coast and then eventually returning to North West Queensland via Emerald.

“It is something I have been wanting to do, so on the way home, that is what I did,” Hoopert said.

“The next time I do that drive, I will take a different road and shoot some different tracks.”

During the drive, he went through Jericho – which is near Barcaldine – and captured the towns race track that has not been used since 2002.

The last race on the Jericho’s final race day was won by Hose of Horrors ridden by Ricky Barone, with prize money for the day $2,800.

Despite not having raced for almost two decades, Hoopert’s drone from the air showed where the track used to be at Jericho, with the running rail and winning post long gone, while the jockeys and stewards room are still regularly used by grey nomads going through the town.

Hoopert's racing aerial works have gained traction in recent weeks after posting the images on his “Hoops Shots” social media channels, which he started when he never thought he would ride again.

With racing in the North West shut down over the hot months in summer, the veteran jockey is keen to again capture tracks such as Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Julia Creek in the coming months now that he is more experienced as a drone pilot, confident he knows the angles better than ever before.

Gympie-24th-Dec-2021-2.jpg