I don’t envy the person who’s in charge of picking the best story line thus far at the National Finals. We could discuss Monday’s roughstock rounds where in bareback an 86 was eighth — yeah, eighth — place and Clayton Biglow’s 93 set the arena record. Or how about Wade Sundell’s 92 in saddle bronc where average leader CoBurn Bradshaw’s 87 didn’t sniff a paycheck. Do you pick the All-Around race? Maybe you lean toward the issues with the gate during round one of the steer wrestling or the dominance once again of Amberleigh Moore in barrels.

All I know is that it’s been a heckuva Finals for a handful of people.

I’ve got nothing but awe for the people who do it so well, but what a script that’s being written for Trevor Brazile who has now won or shared the go-round wins in rounds four and five and has claimed and extended the lead in the All-Around over brother-in-law Tuf Cooper by $28,000. What a swan song for a cowboy who isn’t going anywhere but is pulling away from year-round competition after this week. Brazile hasn’t had a perfect Finals — a barrier in round one puts him at a significant disadvantage to win or place high in the calf roping average — but I look forward to seeing what he’ll do in the second half of the NFR.

Moore needs to schedule more Vegas trips during the year. This lady won $187,000 in 2016, $120,000 in 2017 and through five rounds this year already has $93,346 with five more rounds and the average to go. She leads the Top Gun standings where the leading money winner in a single event gets a bunch of prizes, most notably a one-ton Dodge. I could find a place for that in my garage.

There are a few cowboys right behind her, including tie-down roper Marty Yates. Yates has two go-round wins and $75,788 in NFR earnings.

Here’s the thing about Yates and Moore. They had slip ups on Monday which hurt them a bit in the average and could possibly affect their lucrative place in the average. Winning the average means winning an additional $67,269. Shoot, even placing fourth in the average adds another $31,731 to the coffers, just some serious money to focus on. But it can’t be the only focus. I’ve talked with each of our three locals — calf roper Jake Pratt and team roping brothers Riley and Brady Minor — and all of them talk of balancing go-round earnings with being smart with the average … all while not overthinking anything. Sounds easy, right? Well, for me, wrong.

“I’m an old veteran here,” Riley told me Monday. “I just gotta use my head. Every night pays so much money, you’ve gotta try to win something. You don’t want to say, ‘Well, I should’ve been more aggressive.’”

Managed aggression though.

“We just want to make our run and let us place wherever we place,” Brady said on Sunday. “Every check here is a good check. The guys that win 1-2-3 in the average, that usually means they’re catching their steers. That’s what I want to do every night. If we win fourth and fifth, I’m happy with that.”

And while Pratt’s happy to be making his first trip to the NFR — Brady has 10, nine of them with Riley — he’s not satisfied simply being here. First thing he told me on Monday night was there was another five go-rounds to make money. Yeah, he’s on the outside looking in when it comes to the average, but with $84,615 paid out nightly in each respective event, Pratt is looking to earn his rightful piece of that pie each night. Average or not, he could still make some serious coin.

There’s a bunch of time left, but before we know it, it’ll be Friday night and we’ll all be looking forward to Saturday’s 10th round finale, just ask Riley.

“It’s a blur man. It all goes by so fast.”

Jon Guddat covers rodeo — from the kids to the kids at heart — with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com.


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