First ever trotting winner bred by Hazel

By Peter Wharton

The Imperial Count gelding Imperial Monarch, a winner of six of his last nine outings and who is proving one of the ‘finds’ of the trotting season in Victoria, is one of the first trotters ever bred by Christchurch breeder-owner Hazel van Opzeeland.

Canterbury Breeder Hazel Van Opzeeland with Natalie Rasmussen

The gelding began his career as a two-year-old with Leeston horseman Chris McDowell, who broke him in. He had five starts in New Zealand for one placing.

“We were approached by agent Peter Lagan early last year to sell him. I was reluctant to let him go, but they kept coming back and I eventually relented,” Hazel said.

He won three races as a three-year-old last season and qualified for the Victoria Trotters Derby.

However, Imperial Monarch has really come into his own this year, winning five of his eight starts including three at Melton and a track record-breaking triumph from a 40 metre handicap in the time-honoured Tontine Trotters Championship at Terang.

The four-year-old has shown up as an extremely versatile performer, winning from either the front end, sitting parked or coming from the rear of the field.

Imperial Monarch
(c) photography: Stuart McCormick

Van Opzeeland was a member of the syndicate that raced Imperial Monarch’s dam, Ann’s Monarch.

“Mark Purdon bought Ann’s Monarch at the sales because he knew her breeding. I then took a share in her but after she finished racing no one else in the syndicate wanted to breed from her so I took her over,” Hazel said.

“Ann’s Monarch didn’t race much as she had some issues. She was the first trotter I’ve had.”

Imperial Monarch is her second foal.

Ann’s Monarch with Imperial Monarch as a foal

“Her first foal Regal Spur (by Pegasus Spur) didn’t make the grade and has been rehomed,” Hazel stated.

“I have a younger full brother to Imperial Monarch in work with Chris McDowell at the moment and he’s coming along nicely and doing everything right.”

Ann’s Monarch is carrying a positive test to Creatine.

By the Balanced Image horse Monarchy, Ann’s Monarch is out of the Straphanger mare Strapless, who won three races and left four winners including the dual Gloucester Park victor Angus Bolt and Tout Noir (5 NZ wins).

Strapless was a half-sister to the cup class trotters Xenon ($171,721), Arnika’s Pride and Arndon’s Raider and to Arnroy’s Pride, the grand-dam of the dual Queensland Group winner Majestic Simon ($212,831), being out of the American-bred mare Arndon’s Pride, by Arndon, the sire of the mighty Sundon.

Van Opzeeland is currently breeding from seven broodmares.

“They’re all at Nevele R Stud except for Ann’s Monarch. She is at Tall Tree Stud, owned by Kevin and Bonnie Williams, who have looked after her since she retired from racing,” Hazel said.

Perhaps the best of Hazel’s herd is the Bettor’s Delight mare Imke B, the dam of the Group winning brothers Vessem ($120,165) and Vinke B ($86,290) and the Melton winner Lord Verde.

“Of course, Highview Tommy is the best one I’ve ever raced,” Hazel said.