For a young man in his early teen years who never had any intentions of getting involved in harness racing, Justin Huckabone has made great strides a relatively short amount of time. It seemed like only yesterday that the 21 year old won his first pari–mutuel drive at Vernon Downs with Powerful Love for trainer Scott West.
Justin is a third generation horseman, the son of Claude Hukabone Jr. and brother of Claude Huckabone II. He is a young man of fierce determination and the shortest distance to his goal is a straight line.
Recently during a short hiatus over the past summer, Justin became more determined and focused than ever, making a pledge to himself "That is what I want to do with my life and I am going to do everything that is takes to achieve that goal," said the confidant young Huckabone.
After seeing what he has accomplished at Monticello Raceway during the winter meet, he is a man on a mission. He is so driven that he even asked advice and picked the brain of Hall of Famer John Campbell.
Although he learned a lot from his mentor and father, ironically enough when first learning the ropes, his father didn't put him down on many of his horse's to drive. Huckabone noted that "as a green 18 year old, there were not a lot of drives available to me and it was tough."
In November of 2015, Justin made the move to Monticello to stake his claim and start paying his dues.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Vernon James and Misty Carey, who helped me get started at Monticello Raceway, along with Jennifer Lappe," said Huckabone.
Currently Justin is ranked sixth for most wins at Monticello with 38; his UDRS is a respectable .206.
His aggressive take no prisoners driving style is similar to that of his childhood idols of Walter Case, Jim Morrill Jr. and Ron Pierce. Leading Monticello Raceway driver Bruce Aldrich offered the following when asked about Justin. "He is willing to listen to trainers and is not a know it all, he has a good attitude, and comes from a good family with roots in the business."
Fellow driver James DeVaux also has high words of praise for the young Huckabone; "He is safe on the racetrack, he has a lot of talent, he could go places with his talents, plus he is a decent trainer as well."
Monticello Raceway Racing Secretary Eric Warner said, "The young man is a real talent, usually this is a hard place to get established as a driver, but he has done just fine."
Aside from being an up and coming talent to the sport, Huckabone is also involved in promoting the sport, "I want this sport to stick around for young guys like me," said Huckabone during a recent chat in the backstretch.
Justin sees the big picture, very clearly, "We need to highlight our star drivers and horses and introduce the sport to the younger generation via social media," said the enthusiastic Huckabone.
Justin represents a cut from the new cloth, from the social media generation, he wants to perpetuate the sport and keep it alive during the span of his livelihood in the game. Justin has all the attributes to succeed in this sport, with a tireless work ethic, a burning desire reach the winners circle in every race.
As the racing season starts to gear up, Huckabone sees himself doing triple duty, driving at Monticello Raceway Monday through Thursday, Vernon Downs on Thursday and Tioga Downs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.(Monticello)