Matt Hall’s lead dog, Keeper, is in a well-deserved retirement.
The nine-year-old led Hall and the rest of his team to victory in the Yukon Quest, a 1,600-kilometre international sled dog race, from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska, last week.
With the win Keeper, and his “protégé” Anchor, were given the Golden Harness Award at the Quest’s awards banquet on Feb. 18 in Fairbanks.
“He is the keystone dog of the kennel and has trained every leader we have. He’s super driven, smart and determined. I owe my success to this dog,” said Hall in a message to the News.
“He trained Anchor for the last year on the ins and outs of being a leader. Anchor proved to be a grade A student and soaked in all his training and took the Quest as a personal challenge. Anchor could not have performed any better and I couldn’t be more proud of this young dog.”
Hall, who lives in Two Rivers, Alaska, captured his first Quest title in the 34th annual race on Feb. 14, completing the journey in 10 days, one hour and seven minutes.
It was the 25-year-old’s fourth Quest — same goes for Keeper. Anchor was a rookie.
“This was his very first competitive race,” said Hall. “He has a very successful racing career ahead of him. Anchor and Keeper are very similar in personality — determined, smart, with a mental fortitude that will take us the distance, no matter the weather or terrain. I’m a very lucky musher to have these two on my team.”
Kotzebue, Alaska’s Katherine Keith was named Rookie of the Year at the banquet. The 38-year-old, who has raced the Iditarod in the past, was the top rookie with a seventh place finish. She is the first woman to win the award in 15 years.
Fairbanks’ Paige Drobny won the Veterinarian’s Choice Award for demonstrating superior care of her dogs in the race. With the award comes $1,000 toward veterinary services from Whitehorse’s Alpine Veterinary Medical Clinic. Drobny placed fourth for her best finish to date, placing 14th in her previous two Quests.
Two-time champ Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska, pocketed two awards. This year’s second place finisher took the Pelly Crossing Award, a new award given to the first musher to reach Pelly. The 49-year-old also bagged the Joe Fellers Dawson Award of two ounces of Klondike gold as the first musher to reach Dawson and finish the race. It was his third time winning the Dawson award in 17 Quests. (2015 champ Brent Sass was the first to Dawson for the fourth year in a row but scratched from the race at the Central checkpoint in Alaska.)
Ben Good of North Pole, Alaska, a rookie who placed 13th, won the Sportsmanship Award.
Sweden’s Torsten Kohnert picked up the Challenge of the North Award that goes to the musher who best exemplifies the spirit of the race.
Sebastien Dos Santos Borges of Chazey-Bons, France, did something seven other teams didn’t, he reached the finish line. The 44-year-old, who scratched in his first Quest last year, was the last to reach Fairbanks and was given the Red Lantern Award. He finished with a time of 12 days, 15 hours and 17 minutes.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com
2017 Yukon Quest’s final standings:
1st Matt Hall
2nd Hugh Neff
3rd Allen Moore
4th Paige Drobny
5th Ed Hopkins
6th Torsten Kohnert
7th Katherine Keith
8th Jessie Royer
9th Ryne Olson
10th Dave Dalton
11th Rob Cooke
12th Brian Wilmshurst
13th Ben Good
14th Sebastien Dos Santos Borges