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Huxtable excited to represent Queensland in the National Apprentice Race Series

DSC-3774.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

Ahead of his opportunity as Queensland’s nominated rider in the National Apprentice Race Series, Justin Huxtable has labelled his move to the Sunshine State as the best decision he has ever made.

The native Croweater first came to Queensland to ride as part of the NARS three years ago, before settling in to eventually work for former gun rider and now trainer Chris Munce.

The 21-year-old Huxtable gets his chance to represent his adopted state this Wednesday at Doomben with an aim to reeling in Victoria, who has established a commanding lead in the NARS after winning the first two heats in South Australia and Tasmania earlier this month.

Across the entire state, Huxtable has 47.5 winners to his name as of Tuesday afternoon, putting him in the top 15 riders in Queensland so far this season.

He backed the NARS concept as a worthy one, providing apprentice hoops chances that they may never receive in their careers.

“It is a good concept, giving young kids the time and opportunity to get into a different state, getting outside their comfort zone of just doing the same thing every week,” Huxtable said.

“Different state, racecourse against different riders, I think it is a great concept to fly the kids around the country to places they may not get the chance to ever ride out if not for this.”

Huxtable had ridden just over 100 winners in South Australia before making the move to Queensland in late 2019.

He admits to feeling like he was stuck in a rut back in Adelaide and was not getting as many opportunities as he would have liked.

“It is the best decision I have ever made,” Huxtable said of moving to Queensland.

On the big Doomben Cup day stage riding without a claim on Saturday, Huxtable claimed the Listed Carter Stakes over 1200 metres for his boss, Munce.

While Munce was glad to see his two-year-old filly score an impressive TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival winner, he was overjoyed for his apprentice as well.

“Justin had to do so much work on her to overcome an awkward gate and then he got her back under him really nice,” Munce said.

“I am so pleased for Justin, he only has a few wins left and he has no allowance, he is up with the big boys now.

“It is good for him to win a Stakes race.”

R4-Shooting-for-Gold-Steven-O-Dea-Justin-Huxtable-9.jpgHuxtable felt he was already on the way to being a top rider before moving to Queensland but says being around Munce has allowed him to add a few more strings to his bow.

“Chris has been great for me, he has done nothing but look after me and care for me,” Huxtable said.

“He has always been one to push until you get to where he wants me to be ability wise, I would like to think I could ride all right before I came here but he has really helped me along as a apprentice going into becoming a senior rider.

“The way that I read races, reading horses racing patterns and analysing things, that is where Chris has helped me the most.”

For an up-and-coming hoop, Huxtable is unusually tall in the jockey’s room in Brisbane, standing around 176cms.

The lightest he can ride is 55kgs and says he finds it very hard to maintain his weight, focusing on his recovery and looking after himself the best he can.

At 176cms, Huxtable is hopeful that he has finished growing, having turned 21, and says the next year or so will determine how long his riding career can last.

He hopes to be riding for the rest of his working life but says his weight and height will always be a concern looking into his long-term future.

There will be two apprentice races at Doomben on Wednesday, including a NARS heat, where a $5000 bonus will also be paid to the winning trainer of each respective race.

The fourth race from Doomben on Wednesday, the Class 1 Plate over 1350 metres, and the sixth event, a Class 3 Plate over 1200 metres, will be the NARS races for the day.

A handful of Queensland apprentices will be riding in the race, with Huxtable Queensland’s nominated rider to score points towards the final tally.

On the NARS series, Victoria is on top of the leader board with 14 points, with Queensland in second place on eight points and South Australia only one point behind in third position.

Queensland is hosting the third leg of the series before it ends at Ladbrokes Park in Melbourne on June 16.

The NARS was first staged in 2008 and is Australia’s premier competition for apprentice jockeys with points awarded in each leg of the series.

The winner receives seven points while five points are awarded to the second horse, three points to the third placegetter while two points go to the fourth horse home.

All unplaced riders received one point each.