Brent Sass leaves Dawson with sizable lead in Quest

This year's Yukon Quest has been much harder than last year's, says Eureka, Alaska's Brent Sass. The defending champ has struggled to keep his dogs healthy on the trail.

This year’s Yukon Quest has been much harder than last year’s, says Eureka, Alaska’s Brent Sass.

The defending champ has struggled to keep his dogs healthy on the trail, but that hasn’t prevented Sass from opening a considerable lead on the rest of the field.

The 36-year-old and his team left Dawson City – the race’s halfway point – at 12:21 a.m. Friday and was over 20 kilometres up from second place’s Allen Moore at press time this morning.

“I’m feeling really good. It’s been an interesting race, it’s been lots of fun, lots of challenges,” said Sass during the mandatory 36-hour layover in Dawson. “I think a lot of us are suffering from a bug going through the dogs, so it’s been more work.

“Last year is was a magic carpet ride. I really didn’t have any problems … This year has been much different. I’ve had to work hard keeping the dogs hydrated, keeping them fed, keeping them happy on the trail. But they’ve done excellent and I’m very proud of the dog team.”

For the third year in a row, Sass was the first to Dawson at midday on Wednesday. He was presented with four ounces of gold he’ll get to keep if he finishes the race, which is far from a certainty. In the 2014 Quest Sass fell from his sled just before the final checkpoint of the race, had to withdraw and forfeit the Dawson gold.

For the second half of the race, “The main goal is keeping the dogs healthy and happy,” said Sass.

Moore – the 2013 and 2014 Quest champ from Two Rivers – left Dawson two hours behind Sass and had 2012 champ Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska hot on his heels en route to Scroggie Creek.

Fourth place’s Matt Hall of Two Rivers left Dawson at 5 a.m., about two and a half hours ahead of 10 Mile’s Ed Hopkins – the leading Yukon musher.

“It’s been going pretty good. I’ve been doing my thing out there, trying to be patient and wait for the opportunities to show up,” said Hopkins in Dawson. “I’m just going to run the same pace, schedule I drew out and we’ll just see what happens.”

“My dogs got pretty sick when we were leaving Circle, (Alaska,) and had some pretty bad diarrhea and weren’t eating well,” he added. “Just around the Fortymile Mile River they started turning around … So I came in here with them already bouncing up, so after 36 hours they’ll seem like a whole new team altogether. I’ll probably be leaving here with 13 dogs too; I don’t think there’s anyone I’ll be dropping.”

In the last two days the other four Yukon teams have either improved or maintained their positions in the standings.

Whitehorse’s Yuka Honda has moved up from 10th to eighth; Mendenhall’s Luc Tweddell moved up a spot to 14th; Whitehorse’s Rob Cooke and Mendenhall’s Gaetan Pierrard have maintained 17th and 18th, respectively, in the current field of 21.

The race, which began Saturday in Fairbanks, saw its second scratch Friday morning. Hank DeBruin of Haliburton, Ont. called it quits in Eagle, Alaska, citing the morale and health of his team. DeBruin was the only other Canadian in the race other than the five Yukoners.

The 2016 champion could arrive at the finish in Whitehorse as early as Sunday, said organizers.

“Thanks to all the volunteers and race officials out there and veterinarians. They are all doing a great job helping us get down the trail,” added Sass.

Contact Tom Patrick at

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read