First feature win puts spotlight on Capalaba ‘champions’

\"\"Caption: Helen Houston and Burnt Briar after victory in the Bob Vernon Memorial (Photo: Just Greyhound Photos)

By Chase Editor Pat McLeod

(Each month Chase puts the spotlight on a person and/or their ‘best friend’ – a story that gives an insight into the true heart of greyhound racing. It showcases all that is good in this sport and is a monthly tribute to much-loved greyhound identity Daryl ‘Albert’ Gleeson)

As the field made its way to the boxes for a key lead-up race to the recent Capalaba Cup, the Bob Vernon Memorial, caller John ‘Bunny’ Brasch was in his element, painting a word picture.

As he explained, Vernon was a highly respected figure in sporting and community circles in Brisbane. His name was synonymous with rugby league as a coach and mentor to youngsters.

His other passion was greyhound racing, and more specifically, greyhound racing at the Capalaba track. By the time the lids had risen the attentive crowd at the historic straight track were well versed in why this race was named in his honour.

Bob Vernon paid it forward. He was like so many in the greyhound fraternity who put in untold hours to keep their local club, their sport, afloat.

For the vast majority of the greyhound fraternity throughout Australasia being an owner, trainer, breeder, handler isn’t enough. ‘Club volunteer’ is also a cap worn by most. None more so than Bob Vernon.

So, when youngster Burnt Briar (Zinzan Brooke-Kyella) edged out Kaminari in the 2021 Bob Vernon Memorial, Bunny Brasch was able to add even more colour to an already glowing picture of the volunteer fraternity at Capalaba.

Helen and Cliff Houston, who bred, own and train Burnt Briar never met Vernon before he passed away, but they are cut from the same cloth.

“What a great result. Couldn’t have gone to a more deserving couple,” Capalaba’s ever-busy trackj manager Erin Cameron said as the presentation was about to start.

“Cliff and  Helen are such great volunteers for this club. They’d do anything. Just really lovely people.

“Helen helps out almost everywhere and Cliff not only drives the lure but has taught three others how to drive it as well.”

Like most volunteers, Helen Houston was quick to talk about ‘others’ who were responsible for where Cliff and her are today, but it was impossible for her to hide the delight of capturing their first feature after 15 years in the sport.

“This is just ‘Wow!’,” she said.

“To win our first feature race and for it to be here at Capalaba, well that means everything to us.

“We have been in greyhounds since 2006 and we have had placings in features in the past, but this is our first. We live and breathe racing.

“We didn’t know Bob Vernon, but have heard what a great volunteer for the club he was. To win in his honour makes it even more special.

“We race at other tracks, but this one is special. This is where we spend a lot of our time as volunteers. Cliff is one of the lure drivers and I also help out judging. It is such as safe, beautiful track and the people are just so helpful.

“We used have a mobile food van and we catered at a puppy auction, got to know Ron and Marion Goodwin … and that’s how it started back in 2006.

“The people involved in greyhound racing are so helpful.”

Helen said her and Cliff had been ‘quiet’ on the racing front over the past 18 months, however were hopeful their current litter, which includes Burnt Briar and Rush, who was placed fourth in the Ken Vernon, would keep them busy for a while.

“A good friend, Wayne Thomson, who also drives the lure here, owns Zinzan Brooke (a four-time Group 1 finalist),” Helen Said. “Zinzan Brooke suited our bitch and we are very happy with the litter.

“The best are still at home.”

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