Hugh Neff moved into the lead of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile Sled Dog Race Sunday, passing Brent Sass and Jeff King on the trail from Braeburn to Carmacks.
While it’s still very early, the front half of the pack is setting up a very exciting race. The top 10 mushers were all out of Carmacks, with Neff out front about 14 miles from Pelly and King 19 miles behind, resting in McCabe Creek. Sass was forging a quick path to McCabe and defending champion Allen Moore was resting behind him.
Joar Leifseth Ulsom continued to impress with a strong run on Day 2, maintaining his place in the top five, while Matt Hall and Ray Redington Jr. were about 30 miles off the pace.
It was an interesting leadup, after both King and Moore elected to take their mandatory six-hour layovers in Braeburn, watching several teams pass them. That included both Neff and Sass, who blew through Braeburn and served their layovers in Carmacks. Ulsom also did his mandatory at the second checkpoint.
But with King and Moore electing to rest again once they reached Carmacks, it was Neff who hit the trail to Pelly first. Prior to departing, Neff told the media he felt great and talked about how impressed he was with his dog team.
Asked about the optics of this year's race he said, "Until someone beats Allen, Allen is the one to beat."
King didn’t wait too long before beginning the chase, leaving Carmacks an hour and 20 minutes later, as dusk settled on the checkpoint. Ulsom was the third musher to leave Carmacks, followed by Moore seven minutes later. Sass was hot on Moore’s tail, as the two left one minute apart.
Matt Hall, Ray Redington Jr., and Ed Hopkins all left Carmacks within an hour of each other, while Rolland Trowbridge and Lance Mackey were travelling close together about 10 miles down the trail.
Scott Smith, who entered Carmacks in sixth place, was still resting there as of midnight. Nine more mushers made it into Carmacks while five remained on the trail from Braeburn: Damon Tedford, Tamra Reynolds, Magnus Feren Kaltenborn, Tony Angelo and Kristin Knight Pace.