It took some time for Royal Blu’s true colours to shine, but once they did there was no stopping him, writes AMANDA MAC.
A lacklustre canter down the home straight is hardly the mark of a motivated future racing star, but in Royal Blu’s case, lack of enthusiasm for the track worked to his, and to Alanna Richards very great advantage. The then three-year-old, sired by Top Echelon out of Star of Tiarne, came to the attention of Whitmere Stud’s Greg Gerry, who liked the look of the youngster and decided to buy him. After arriving at his new home in Victoria, Blu was turned out into a paddock to let down.
In early 2020, the horse arrived at Chris and Vicki Lawrie’s Oakbank Farm to further his education. Alanna, an accomplished show rider whose relationship with the Lawrie’s goes back many years, started working on Blu and fell in love with him. “I just knew he needed to be mine,” she says. After some discussion, Alanna’s father funded Blu’s purchase, something for which she will be forever grateful. “Dad supported me with my dreams and without him none of this would be possible,” she adds.
And that was the start of a remarkable journey – and it certainly has been a journey! Initially Royal Blu had contact issues, among other problems, and Alanna wisely decided to turn him out for nine months. “I wanted to let him forget about me, forget about everyone else, and let me forget about him for a little while too,” she tells me.
After bringing him back into work in June last year, Alanna took Blu to the Adelaide Royal where he won Best Novice and Champion Off the Track, as well as his Open class. However, when later riding in a class at a Canberra show, there was a problem. “I wasn’t overly happy with how he was handling it all, so I decided to take him home, work with him some more, and then see how we’d go at Grand Nationals and the Sydney Royal.”
Chris Lawrie thought Royal Blu had the looks and movement to impress the show judges, However, because Blu was relatively new to the ring Alanna confesses that she wasn’t particularly optimistic about their chances.
But she needn’t have been concerned. Blu surpassed himself – and in so doing justified the faith she had always had in him, while at the same time making three of her childhood dreams come true. “He was absolutely perfect,” she says. “At the Nationals we won Champion Large Open Hack, and in Sydney we won the A. V. Pope Cup and Australian National Hack. My first National Champion, first Pope Cup and first Champion Hack at a Royal Show – I still can’t quite believe it! I have Blu’s ribbons and garlands sitting on my dining room table, and I have to look at them every day just to make sure that it all actually did happen!”
It’s fair to say that Alanna and Blu have gone through difficulties on what has been at times a rocky road, but she never gave in. “There was a part of me that just couldn’t give up. I thought no, we’re going to keep going, we’re going to keep trying. I knew he had a good heart and he wanted to do the right thing. I’d had people wanting to purchase him, but I felt very strongly that I was meant to have him and finish the journey with him. I’m so glad the Universe looked after us and kept us together.” Now enjoying a break until early June, Alanna plans to bring Blu back into work in time to take him to Adelaide and the Royals.
And for those of you who might be wondering where Alanna’s much loved France is these days (see our Nov/Dec 2022 issue), I can report that he’s enjoying partial retirement. “I still like to hop on him and ride him around. He’s my heart horse,” Alanna says. “I don’t think I could ever fully retire him, and I don’t think he’d like it either. To be honest, if it wasn’t for France, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m very thankful and grateful to have him in my life.”
Main image: Alanna and Royal Blu triumphant at the 2023 Sydney Royal Easter Show.