RS Lilly Starlight—Lilly, as she's known around Dr. Kurt and Merle Fulton Harris' Stonewall, Texas Fulton Quien Sabe Ranch—would sure be proud of her son, Romancing The Chics, if she could see him on CBSSports right now under the cool direction of Pueblo, Colorado's Trey Yates at the 2018 Wrangler NFR.
Romancing The Chics, better known as Dude, has helped catapult Yates into the spotlight heading into Round 10 of the Finals. Yates has won $61,192.31 on the horse over nine rounds at the NFR, and is the only heeler to have caught nine head. Regardless of what happens in the tenth round, Trey and header Aaron Tsinigine can finish no less than second in the average. First will pay $67,269.23, while second will pay $54,576.92. Aboard Dude, Trey has accumulated $159,631.25 in earnings and is fifth in the world heading into Round 10.
"Trey and Dude are a combination that clicks," J.D. Yates, Trey's father who won the AQHA Superhorse title on Lilly in 2006 and showed Romancing the Chics as well, said. "I don’t think he’s made a bad move. There are a lot of people that have great horses and a lot of great horses that don’t fit everybody. Trey and this horse just have a connection."
Up until it was time to saddle for Round 1, though, Trey wasn't quite sure of which horse would get the call. He had brought his great gelding YY, aboard whom he's helped for world titles and won countless jackpots. He knew the 18-year-old would handle the lights and the crowd of Vegas, so he was pretty sure that's who he'd ride.
"I was going to ride Dude, then I was going to ride YY because I know I’ve roped so much on him," Yates said. "And then, after we ran the steers through—I didn’t rope very good period that day—I was a little tense and nervous clearly. Dude felt kind of tight, maybe it was the way I was riding him. I got up there and kicked and pulled on YY, and he let me catch the steer. Nobody told me what I should ride, but a lot of people hinted YY might be pretty good. My Grandpa Dick is the only one who said ‘Ride the one that got you there.’"
Jhett Johnson, the 2011 World Champion Heeler and Trey's rodeo coach, agreed with Grandpa Dick. Johnson told Trey he had ten chances in the Thomas & Mack, and if he needed to make an adjustment, he could do so at any time.
"He knows how fast the bay is," Trey said. "He’s quick-footed and finishes strong. So two hours before the rodeo, I told Gary, the guy helping us with our horses this week, to saddle the bay."
Getting on Dude has helped Tsinigine and Yates place in six rounds heading into Round 10.
If ever there was a horse born for this greatness, perhaps its Dude. J.D. showed his dam, Lilly, to the 2006 Superhorse title, and aboard the mare also won the world championship in the senior heeling.
"She’s just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of mare," Harris, who also raised Lilly and owned her dam and granddam, too, said. "First she was a show mare, and we showed her in the reining and working cow horse. And then J.D. showed her in the heading, heeling and calf roping and halter. She had a really good show career and has been producing one after the other."
Harris has only bred Lilly to the same stud twice in her producing career ("Only because I got a filly and I wanted a stud colt on that cross," he explained.) And still, she has continued to produce winners no matter the sire.
"I’m a huge believer in having great dams," Harris said "That’s what’s been totally spectacular about her. You see some mares who consistently produce great horses out of a certain sire."
Lilly's colts have performed at every level across disciplines. One of Lilly's offspring is Lil Joe Cash, a 2011 NRHA Futurity Champion with legendary trainer Andrea Fappani. But Dude is the first colt to make it to the NFR, thanks to falling into the hands of J.D. and Trey.
"Jay Wadhams spotted him in Arizona, and he told me that I’d really like him," J.D. remembered. "I said, 'Well all right bring him home to me.' I bought him for a client to sell. I showed him at the Quarter Horse shows for a while, and we did pretty good."
Pretty good, according to J.D., means Dude won the reserve world titles in the senior heading and senior heeling in 2013 and finished fourth in the race for the AQHA Superhorse that same year. He was also the 2013 Farnam All-Around High Point Senior Horse in the AQHA.
"When my client got ready to sell him, and move on to another project, I saw some talent in that horse that would fit Trey to go on with," J.D. said. "Trey purchased him. It’s been a couple years just rodeoing and jackpotting on him before he went on out to do what he’s doing. That horse had a lot of quick speed, always wanted to use his ribs really good. To me that’s a big sign for a heel horse, if they want to stay on their butt and they can run. It was like trying on a pair of gloves. Trey was green and the horse was green. They went to some and grew up together as far as how it worked for each of them."
Trey first cracked Dude out in 2015, when he and J.D. were rodeoing together. Their summer wasn't going so great, and Trey decided he needed to try out his green heel horse to switch up his luck.
"He probably wasn't ready to go, but I loaded him anyway," Trey confessed. "We won the first round, second in short and second in the average, and he won $5,800 at his first rodeo."
In 2018, Yates and Dude won the Cody (Wyoming) Stampede, the Dixie Stampede in Jackson, Mississippi, the Moses Lake (Washington) Round-up Rodeo, the Kitsap Stampede in Bremerton, Washington and the Reno (Nevada) Rodeo, and so far has been nearly flawless at the Finals.
For Lilly's part, at 19 Harris uses her on the ranch and occasionally ropes a calf or two on her. She's had most of her colts through embryo transfer, and she's thanks to her good bone and conformation, as well as the care she's received with Dr. Harris, a vet, as her owner, she's in phenomenal shape.
Dude may be the Harris's first NFR horse, it may not be their last. Trey got to show a 6-year-old maternal sister by A Shiner Named Sioux at the American Rope Horse Futurity Association's World Championship show in October, where he won the reserve title, worth $18,000. TRJ