He might be only 16 but New York High School Student Justin Huckabone has started his lifetime quest to make a name for himself in harness racing. The son of veteran horseman Claude Huckabone, Jr. and brother of driver-trainer Claude Huckabone, III, set out on his career with a second and a third on his very first day at qualifying trials at Vernon Downs last weekend (June 11).
“For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be the greatest at something and being a Huckabone it had to be harness racing. My career has finally started and now I can’t wait to do my time and become a professional driver. It’s all I have dreamed of since I was young.
“I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead of me but I’m determined to be the best,” the Poland central 11th grade student told Harnesslink.
The teenager certainly has the bloodlines to do well in the sport. His grandfather Claude bought a lot of racehorses when Justin’s father (Claude Jr) was young. He set him up on the family farm they still live on in Utica in the County of Oneida , New York.
Justin’s father has driven 1767 winners since 1977 ($4.4 million) and trained a further 361 more ($1.5 million) since 1992. One of his best horses was Gotham Hanover – a world record holder in the 1980s, who won 46 races.
Claude Huckabone III, who is 21 years older than his little brother Justin, has also made a name for himself in the industry having saluted the judge 2,223 ($8.6 million) times since 1990 and trained 496 winners ($1.8 million) since 1993.
He came to catch-drive at Saratoga when his home track, Vernon Downs closed for the season. He has also raced at Monticello , Pocono Downs, Yonkers , Batavia , Buffalo , Tioga, Meadowlands, Freehold and The Meadows.
Claude Huckabone III received the Rising Star award at Monticello , was leading trainer at Tioga and up-and-coming driver at Vernon . He has been in the top driver category at Saratoga for several years.
“I was born here in Utica and have been around standardbreds since day one so I have been given the best possible grounding to make a name for myself in the sport. I’ve got my Qualifiers and Fairs licence and hopefully I’ll get my full licence when I’m 18,” Huckabone (Justin) said.
He said he intended on finishing his High School education but College wasn’t an option.
“I’ll leave school after Grade 12 and then work full-time for my family. I feed the horses before I go to school and also tend to them after school as well, so I’m doing quite a bit now. In the weekends and holidays it’s more full-on though. As well as the horses and driving at Qualifiers I do track and farm maintenance and at the moment we are cutting hay.
Dad works about six horses and my brother has about 14 in work. So as you can see I’m a farm boy with harness racing running through my veins. It’s the only career I’m interested in and I’m determined to be the best at it,” Huckabone said.
“I just love going fast!” he added.
Remember you read about the birth of Huckabone’s career first here at Harnesslink. Watch this space!
Duane RANGER (editor)