LAS VEGAS – It seems as though bareback rider Tanner Aus is going to have to be close to 90 points at this year’s National Finals Rodeo if he intends to win any money.
“I knew it was going to be like this,” said Aus, a four-time NFR qualifier from Granite Falls, Minnesota. “It is taking 90 or better to win every round. This is the cream of the crop.”
On Monday night, he rode Three Hills Rodeo’s Weenie for 89.5 points to finish fifth in the fifth round. That was worth $6,769 and pushed his NFR earnings to $43,000. He sits 10th in the world standings with just shy of $125,000.
At most rodeos, and even at most rounds of the NFR, Aus’ 89.5 would have been enough to win. Not at this NFR, though. There were four rides in the 90s on Monday night alone, taking the total to 10 through the first five rounds of his year’s championship.
“That is what we call the ‘TV pen,’ ” Aus said. “Of course, every horse deserves to be there, but those are the ones we really hold out for. Those are the ones when we show up to big rodeos throughout the season, we’ve got our fingers crossed to draw then.
“It doesn’t get any better than that. If we could do 10 nights like this, we would. It is tough. I was just hanging on for a check tonight with an 89.5, and I’m thankful for every cent I make here. It’s tougher all the time, and after five nights, everyone is still just amped up and ready to go.”
That means there are five nights remaining in the 2019 season, five more opportunities to cash in at the richest rodeo in the world. Aus won the third round with a 90-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Full Baggage, which paid him $26,231. He’d like to do that a few more times over the next few days. He knew there was a good chance to make some money when he arrived at the Thomas & Mack Center on Monday.
“Weenie is a great horse,” he said. “She has a little bit of a reputation for being psychotic in the chute. (Three Hills owners) Dave and Jake Morehead were both there when I got back with my rigging, and we were all loving up on her a little bit, keeping her calm.
“She’s always good, always performs in the arena. The Moreheads have gotten to be great friends of mine. They have helped me out a lot.”
That help has paid off over the years, and he hopes it continues through the rest of this campaign.