At the 2017 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity, The Animal and Lee Francois roared through the Open finals, marking a 225.5 that ultimately gave them the Reserve Championship. They returned to the Will Rogers Coliseum on Aug. 5 in the Metallic Cat NCHA Summer Spectacular Derby Open finals and rocked the pen again, stealing the show and the title with a 228.
“I’m pumped. He was good the first go and just got better every trip,” Francois said, referencing their Open semifinals win. “Finals night, he was just a show horse. It wasn’t like I had to ask him for a whole lot. It’s not like you’ve got to juice him up; those show horses, on finals night, they just know it. They feel the adrenaline too, so you just put your hand down and they reach and get it. You just hang on.”
The stallion, who added $39,474 to a bankroll of $189,404 for the win, took to playing defense immediately once the first cow was cut. Though the cow was tough, The Animal took hold of it and controlled it, and Francois said he felt himself relax as the horse did his job. After that, he knew if he could just make two more clean cuts, they could be in the money.
For the third cow, Francois picked a rerun that his herd holder Beau Galyean had used earlier in the set.
“Before we went down there, Beau said that he cut a grey cow, being first in that set, and he said, ‘Hey, if that cow’s there and you need it, that cow’s still got something left in it.’ It was on top, and I went straight for it.
“It was a little tougher than we thought – we joked about it after – but I was able to finish off the run,” Francois added with a laugh. “That just made it better, I think.”
He noted The Animal controls tough cows by getting down in their faces and trying to block them from getting past him. All Francois has to do is let the stallion find his way.
“It’s letting a cow horse be a cow horse and letting him handle that cow, and not a horse where he’s doing what I tell him to do,” he said. “At that point, it’s just close my eyes and let him take over.”
Bred by EE Ranches of Texas Inc., The Animal is a son of Cat Ichi out of the Abrakadabracre mare My Little Abra, making him a full brother to 2016 NCHA Open Horse of the Year Ichis My Choice ($395,740). He is owned by Richard and Beth Carney, of Kemp, Texas, who purchased him from the 2016 NCHA Futurity 2-Year-Old Sale Session I for $72,000 from Todd Nelson. At the time, however, he was known by a different name.
“When we looked at him, his name was Ichi The Thief,” Beth said. “My husband looked at him and goes, ‘He’s a freakin’ animal!’ So we changed his name to ‘The Animal,’ and it stuck the whole time. He’s an amazing horse.”
Though Richard, who was recovering from dental surgery, couldn’t be at the show to watch his horse’s powerful run, his wife said he watched the live webcast.
“He knows he won, and he’s beside himself,” she said of Richard. “I’m so excited, too. He’s an amazing horse, and Lee has done a fabulous job with him. He’s the best natured horse, the most loveable. You could put a kid on him – he’s so cool.
“We plan to just keep showing him!” she added. “There’s people that have been interested in breeding, so we might breed him. Right now, we’re just planning on showing him and enjoying him.”
The Animal was Francois’ second horse of three in the second bunch to work during the finals. The first, Desires Mamie (Metallic Cat x Reys Desire x Dual Rey), marked a 217.5 to tie for seventh and win a $19,020 check for owner H.B. Bartlett; the third, Rey Reddington (Dual Rey x Little Moria Lena x Smart Little Lena), owned by MLH Partners, marked a 214.5 and tied for 14th. Rey Reddington banked $9,909.
“I’m exhausted,” Francois said. “You go one horse at a time. You can’t think about the next horse until you get through with one.”
He thanked his help, Beau Galyean, Jesse Lennox, Lloyd Cox and Tag Rice, giving them credit for his winning run, too.
“Every dollar I’ve won in this pen, Lloyd’s been out front. It’s just been amazing,” Francois said. “Tag’s pretty much the same thing, he’s always helped me here. Beau and Jesse always do a great job keeping up with the cattle and putting me on some good cows.”
He was also grateful for his wife, Holly, and daughter, Sydney, who helped him get the horses ready.
“They are the team,” he said. “Sydney works her rear end off. I’m going to miss her; she’s off to school at the end of this month. And Holly runs everything, she runs the show, I just ride horses. That’s all I do. She tells me what to do. She’s just got everything taken care of and takes care of me and Syndey, too.”
Catillac Reys and Adan Banuelos, who topped the Derby Open first and second gos, scored a 225.5 to take the Reserve Championship for owner Ten/27 Ranch in Denham Springs, Louisiana. The gelding (Metallic Cat x Tootsie Rey x Dual Rey) was bred by Michelle Cannon’s Cannon Quarter Horses and garnered $34,825.