CHANCES are, anyone who has been to a country horse racing meet in SA, would have seen apprentice jockey Justin Huxtable in action.
The 17-year-old, who hails from Wisanger, near Emu Bay on Kangaroo Island, rode in his first stakes race in December, showing he has what it takes to be a metropolitan jockey.
But the track to the winners’ circle has not been the easiest journey, with the young apprentice getting off to a rocky start during his first stint on the mainland.
After mixing with the wrong crowd at Morphettville at the beginning of his career, Justin was sent to Naracoorte to get his career back on track.
He arrived at Sue Jaensch’s stables in June, and Justin soon discovered he had the best of both worlds – a country lifestyle on a property also running sheep and cattle, plus the ability to also ride in Vic.
And being so close to the Vic border, it has given Justin the chance to ride interstate, boosting his profile among country and city trainers.
“Sue has helped me with my riding and everything has been going forwards since then,” he said.
Country racing is the breeding ground for apprentice jockeys, as they gather race wins and continue working on their craft.
“Naracoorte and Kangaroo Island are quite similar and it has been an easy transition (to Naracoorte) because it’s quite a similar lifestyle,” he said.
“I get the country feel like back home but I get the horses and racing as well.”
His success on the track was acknowledged last year with the Caitlin Forrest Country and Provincial Award for the 2016-17 season for the most wins in a season by an apprentice jockey.
“It was really nice to win and to honour Caitlin (who died in a four-horse fall at Murray Bridge in 2014), especially knowing her family,” he said.
His first race ride was on August 28, 2016, on a mare called Miss Identified, trained by Morphettville trainer Travis Doulde.
Three rides later at Mindarie-Halidon in September, Justin picked up his maiden win on the same horse.
JUSTIN HAS EYES FIRMLY ON KI CUP
IF there is one race apprentice jockey Justin Huxtable would like to win, it is the Kangaroo Island Cup in February, in front of a hometown crowd.
And winning on one of his dad David Huxtable’s horses would be as exciting as a group one victory, he said.
“If was a dad and I combo, that would be much more special,” Justin said.
He has ridden in the cup before, but is yet to make it to the winners’ circle.
But Justin is no stranger to country cup victories.
In February last year, he won the Lock Cup aboard Angela Forster-trained Montalto and claimed the Streaky Bay Cup a month later on the same horse.
To date, Justin has ridden 83 winners in his apprenticeship career.
He comes from a stud background, with his parents breeding thoroughbreds for racing. When he was 14 years old, a visit to Flemington, Vic, cemented his passion for racing.
“Dad, being a trainer, helped guide me to where I am today,” Justin said.
Nudging 177 centimetres in height, Justin is one of the taller jockeys in the field – but that does not worry him.
“It’s not an everyday occurrence, seeing someone as tall as I am race riding,” he said.
“Weight is not much of an issue at the moment, I can still ride at the minimum 54 kilograms.”
Having grown a few extra centimetres, Justin said working on his riding style had been a challenge.
“Being a lot taller than the smaller jockeys, it makes it harder to look neater and tidier on the horse,” he said.