Meet Allen Moore, two-time Yukon Quest champion. That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
After more than 900 miles, Moore was the first musher to cross the finish line at Takhini Hot Springs, at 3:11 am this morning. He was greeted by applause and whistles from the crowd, as he broke his own record with a total trail time of eight days, 14 hours and 21 minutes.
That record will come with an asterix, since this year’s race was 80 miles shorter than usual due to the removal of American Summit and the final leg to Whitehorse from the trail. Last year, Mooreʼs finishing time was eight days, 19 hours and 39 minutes, when the trail was 50 miles shorter due to the removal of American Summit.
Still, it’s a fast run for the veteran musher – one that will bring him first-place prize money and confirm his place amongst the Yukon Quest’s best competitors.
“I guess we’re doing a few things right anyway,” Moore said with a laugh at the finish line. “But mainly we have some good dogs right now, and they’re hard to come by, just like a basketball or football team. Once you get that, you have a pretty good team for a few years.”
This year’s team is once again led by Quito, who won the Golden Harness Award as Moore’s top dog after his victory in 2013.
“She’s always been in the lead and she’s just the best dog a person could have,” he said. “I’d say what, the last four years, she’s run back to back Quests and Iditarods…I’m gettin’ choked up…in lead and I wish we had a lot more like her.”
Will we see Quito for another Yukon Quest?
“I would hope so. Until she tells us she doesn’t want to do it anymore…and she hasn’t said that yet.”
While Moore was happy with the victory, he couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that it wasn’t the race everyone had thought would happen on the final leg. After Brent Sass was injured Sunday in a fall off his sled, he was withdrawn from the race and Moore was all alone in front.
He got emotional when talking about the absence of Sass.
“We would have been neck ‘n neck all the way here. We would have probably both slid around that corner out there. He said, next year.”
Asked to pick a particular moment in this year’s race that stood out, Moore replied, “I enjoy now. I’ll enjoy it more when I’m in the hot springs.”
The last musher to win a Yukon Quest that finished at the Takhini Hot Springs was Mooreʼs wife, Aliy Zirkle. Zirkle also won the YQ300 last week, marking the first time a husband and wife won both the long and mid-distance races in the same year.
Yukon Quest ‘The Real Deal’
Hugh Neff has seen his fair share of crazy finishes in the Yukon Quest. Take 2012 for example, when he was involved in a sprint to the finish with two-time champion, Allen Moore. That year, it was Neff who came out on top, by just 26 seconds.
This year, things were a little different. With no one in his rearview and Moore already well across the finish line, Neff arrived at Takhini Hot Springs in second place Monday, with a relaxed smile on his face.
“Another Quest in the bucket,” he said, telling the crowd he was staring at the beautiful sundog on his ride and figured it would take him all the way to the finish line.
Neff was at Takhini Hotsprings 14 years ago on his rookie run, so to him, it had come full circle. The MC at the finish line, musher Gerry Willomitzer, asked Neff how many more Yukon Quests he thinks he’ll do.
“I'm thinking 25,” he laughs, adding, “The Quest is what it's all about. To me it's the real deal!”
Hall Keeps Hold on Third Place
While the first two finishers are across the line, the race is far from over. Not only are their 11 more spots up for grabs, but there are still good stories to tell, and one of those is rookie Matt Hall.
Hall, who used to watch the race every year and volunteer while growing up in Eagle, Alaska, is impressing many with his third-place performance in his first Yukon Quest.
While he has been running consistently since the start, Hall really made his move after Dawson City, catching up to Cody Strathe and pulling well ahead Monday evening.
He arrived in Braeburn at 8:34 after a strong run from Carmacks, with nine very happy dogs. Hall will take his final mandatory layover before starting the last leg to the finish line Tuesday morning.
Strathe left Carmacks at 1:25 pm with eight dogs and was camped 27 miles from Braeburn at the end of the night.
John Schandelmeier and Ken Anderson were locked in a battle for fifth place. Anderson made up time on Schandelmeier between Pelly and Carmacks, and the two of them left Carmacks less than an hour apart. Will it remain a close race right to the finish, or will one of them manage to pull away?
Elsewhere, Torsten Kohnert arrived in Carmacks at 9:42 pm, parking his team for a rest and a hot meal. Curt Perano was resting at McCabe Creek after blowing through Carmacks with a happy, yipping team eager to get back out on the trail.
Dave Dalton, currently in ninth place, was resting at the Pelly Crossing checkpoint.
Jerry Joinson was leading the back of the pack, heading into Stepping Stone. Hank DeBruin continued his impressive move up the standings, passing both Mandy Nauman and Brian Wilmshurst for 11th spot.
However, the distance between Hank and Mandy was just one mile, while Brian was only four miles back. With lots of trail left to travel, it’s really anybody’s guess as to who will end up with this year’s Red Lantern.