Brent Sass is the 2019 Yukon Quest winner after reaching the finish line in Fairbanks, Alaska, just before 1 p.m. local time on Monday, with a full team of 14 dogs.
Leading him into the finish line were Sluice and Morello. Eleven of his 14 dogs were rookies, while the other three were part of his 2015 winning team.
“They’re definitely not rookies anymore,” said Sass. “I can’t wait until next year. They’re really going to have the knowledge and the know-how. They never hesitated a bit … they just kept getting faster.”
This is Sass’s 12th year running the race.
“I think I really tried to just ignore my competitors and not really care about anybody,” said Sass.
“I jumped off the ice on Birch Creek there and had a really solid run. I figured it was cold out, and there was very little chance of anybody blowing through Central, so I gambled. It just puts a few more miles on you before you go over Eagle Summit, which is always a test.”
He said this race was extra special because of his dog Jeep, who was a sprint dog for one of his good friends – Joee Redington – before Redington died.
“Joee always said when we were chatting and hanging out, that this dog right here could run a distance race,” said Sass. “After Joee passed away, I bought Jeep … and said, ‘You’re going to be a distance dog.’
“I trained him for two seasons and he was phenomenal. I mean, he led over 500 miles of the race. … I know Joee’s spirit was out there with me the whole way smiling down on us.”
Sass was the third musher to start the race, leaving the start line in Whitehorse at 11:06 a.m. on Feb. 2 with nine dogs.
When mushers arrived in Dawson City for the 36-hour layover, it was Sass leading the way. He reached the checkpoint at 11:24 a.m. on Feb. 5 with a 30-minute lead on rival Michelle Phillips.
As the first musher to reach Dawson and finish the race, Sass wins the Dawson Award — two ounces of Klondike placer gold. Sass has previously won the award in 2015 and 2016.