Sass first to Dawson as Quest teams drop like flies

A dog in the sled, a little frostbitten, but Eureka, Alaska's Brent Sass reached Dawson City feeling great.

A dog in the sled, a little frostbitten, but Eureka, Alaska’s Brent Sass reached Dawson City feeling great.

For the second year in a row, the 35-year-old was the first to the halfway point of the Yukon Quest sled dog race on Tuesday.

“I feel great. The dogs performed really well in the first half of the race and I’m running my planned race,” said Sass. “I’m looking forward to the second half of the race.”

Sass reached Dawson at 3:01 p.m. with a substantial six-hour lead over defending champ Allen Moore of Two Rivers, Alaska, who was second into Dawson last year as well.

Sass suffered some frostbite in his fingers, but the mandatory 24-hour layover in the Klondike town has helped, he said.

“Yah, I’ve nipped a few fingers, most of it happened in Braeburn at the very first checkpoint – it was really cold when I came blowing through there in the middle of the night,” said Sass. “Packing my sled I had to take my gloves off to get some zippers zipped up and I got nipped a little bit. But it’s all part of the game and just this little bit of break they’ve had from the cold has really helped and they’ll be fine.”

As the first to Dawson, Sass received four ounces of placer gold worth about $6,000, which he’ll get to keep provided he finishes the 1,600-kilometre race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

He wasn’t so fortunate last year when the race ran the opposite direction. Sass was withdrawn from the race after suffering a concussion in a fall from his sled before the final checkpoint in Braeburn. He was in second place at the time of the accident.

Sass, who placed third in 2013, is applying last year’s lessons to this year’s race – his ninth Quest.

“I’m taking better care of myself: I’m eating much, much better on the trail, I’m hydrating way, way more than I did in the past,” said Sass. “I’m really aware of myself more than I have been in the past, which in turn helps me take more care of my dogs … In the past I’ve been so focused on the dogs I’ve lost track of myself and that’s what led to my accident last year.”

Moore, 57, who is going for his third straight title, reached Dawson at 9:18 p.m. last night.

2012 Quest champ Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska, is once again nipping at Moore’s heels. The 47-year-old, who has placed second the last two Quests, reached Dawson two minutes before midnight on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, Tagish’s Ed Hopkins was the top Yukoner in sixth, two spots ahead of four-time champ Lance Mackey of Fairbanks.

Whitehorse’s Normand Casavant was in 10th and Dawson’s Brian Wilmshurst was racing home in the 12th place spot.

This year’s Quest saw five teams scratch in the first three days of the race. It’s the most to scratch before the second half of the race since 2011.

Denali Park, Alaska’s Jeff King, who won the race in 1989, scratched in Pelly Crossing Monday. Eagle, Alaska’s Matt Hall, who placed third last year, did the same.

Willow, Alaska’s Scott Smith, Mount Lorne’s Tamra Reynolds, and Fairbanks’ Tony Angelo all scratched in Carmacks.

“I really do believe cold gets into people’s heads and it can really bring your attitude down,” said Sass. “Once you lose your attitude and excitement for the race, it’s a pretty tough task to continue – torturing yourself is what it becomes.”

As for the dog that rode the final leg in the sled, Sass hasn’t decided if he’ll leave Dawson this afternoon with or without him.

“He’s a younger dog who just wasn’t keeping up with the speed we were coming down off the Dome with,” said Sass. “I haven’t made the call yet, but I think I’m going to leave here with 13.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read