Hazel Van Opzeeland and her ‘Dutch Connection’

By Rob Courtney

Well known Canterbury harness owner and breeder Hazel Van Opzeeland is actually of Scottish heritage and was born in New Zealand but through marriage developed a Dutch connection.

The popular racing identity will have three runners going around at Addington this Friday night including the unbeaten two-year-old Vessem, a horse she bred, then sold, then bought back into when secured by Mark Purdon at the 2022 National Yearling sales.

The Vincent – Imke B (Bettors Delight – Lughnasadh) colt will be shooting for the perfect five from five in Race 6 and currently sits top of the perch amongst this season’s two-year-old colts and geldings.

“He is named after a small village in Holland and my friends in that village follow the horse and his races with great joy,” Hazel explained.

“He is providing us all with a lot of pleasure but we are quite aware there is much that can potentially change on the two-year-old horizon in the coming weeks and there will be more good horses to come out as the big races get closer.”

She has a share in Casino Action (Race 3) and in Race 1 Toby Tom B (Highview Tommy – Renske B) will be trying to secure his maiden win for Van Opzeeland and trainer Ken Barron.

With three placings from his initial five starts and a nice front line draw, he would appear a good each way chance.

“The horse means a lot to me, I bred him with some close friends and he is named after one of their grandchildren. The horse tries so hard,” Hazel reflected.

Toby Tom B is by Hazel’s flagship horse Highview Tommy, a million dollar earner in Australasia, a NZ record holder, placed in two NZ Cups and where the relationship really began for Van Opzeeland with harness racing and the people connected to it.

Back in 2007, and with a change in personal circumstances, she gained employment in the office of Double E stables run by Michael House, her neighbour at the time.

“Michael was heavily committed to pinhooking young horses and then having them ready for the Ready To Run sale and Tommy was one of those horses. I remember there was a lot of interest in him at the time and I was lucky enough to get a share along with Glenys and Phil Kennard.” she explained.

Having had no previous connection to the sport prior to working for House, Hazel freely admitted she was quite naïve around Tommy’s early accomplishments, not realising at the time that really good horses can be few and far between and Group 1 success really is a ‘big deal’.

“It was a great ride and a big thrill and gave me a connection with a good number of really good people immersed in the industry,” she says.

A two year stint in the North Island working in the office at Woodlands Stud and then as their booking agent during the stud season followed before relocating back to Canterbury.

Van Opzeeland is still very much an active breeder with her mares residing at Nevele R stud. This coming season, she has seven mares booked into Vincent, Lazarus, Always B Miki, Creatine and Captain Crunch.

Historically the colts go to the sales but after an indifferent result at the last sales back in February where her fillies struggled to generate a positive return, a Plan B has been hatched to best garner a good result for the owner/breeder.

"I have five race horses in work and a few young ones going through their education with six different stables. I’ve gone back to the well several times with Baptism Of Fire (dam of Highview Tommy) and currently have her last foal Light Up The Fire (3yo filly by Art Major) with Cran and Chrissie Dalgety."

In the meantime, Highview Tommy has had his stud career exported to Australia but Van Opzeeland certainly has plenty to look forward to on the local scene as her ‘Dutch connection’ takes centre stage at Addington this Friday.

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