The Yukon Quest is Alaskan musher Allen Moore’s to lose.
The 54-year-old race veteran is set to leave the last checkpoint in Braeburn at 4:23 p.m. Monday afternoon, 42 minutes ahead of second-place contender Hugh Neff, also from Alaska.
“The odds are in Moore’s favour,” said Whitehorse Quest executive director Sue Thomas.
Moore has 11 dogs still in the race while Neff is down to nine.
And though Neff arrived only 12 minutes behind Moore, he received a 30-minute penalty earlier in the race for losing his axe. This has given Moore a jump start on the last 160-kilometre leg to Whitehorse.
Four-time Quest champ Lance Mackey is at least several hours behind.
“We don’t know where he is, his live tracker is off,” said Thomas, referring to the GPS tracking system carried by all mushers this year.
The live tracker could have been turned off or it may have died or there could be no reception in the trees, she said.
Mackey is running four to five young dogs on his team this year, which may having an impact on his team’s performance.
Although the odds are in Moore’s favour, a lot depends on training and how the dogs are feeling, said Thomas.
Neff is not far behind, and Mackey might have “some jet fuel in his tank,” she said.
The race field is spread out this year with mushers stretching from Dawson to Braeburn, while warm weather and good trail conditions have seen no teams drop out of the race since Circle City, Alaska.
The trail between Braeburn and Whitehorse is also in good condition although there is overflow around McIntyre Creek, said Thomas.
The Canadian Rangers, who are responsible for putting in the Quest trail on the Canadian side, are heading out in front of the teams today to make sure the track is well marked.
“The stakes tend to disappear as we get closer to Whitehorse,” said Thomas.
Multiple snow machine tracks also make the trail harder to follow, she said.
The first mushers are expected into Whitehorse sometime between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“That’s one thing I learned on the trail,” said Thomas. “Soon means anywhere from zero to four hours.”
Still, Thomas is encouraging Yukoners to head down to the finish line early Tuesday morning.
“Come down before work and you might just see someone finish,” she said.
Contact Genesee Keevil at firstname.lastname@example.org