EAGLE — Jimmy Lebling became the first musher to scratch from the 36th running of the Yukon Quest 1,000-Mile International Sled Dog Race, which began Saturday in Whitehorse, Yukon, and finishes in Fairbanks.

Lebling, a rookie who was training out of former two-time Quest champion Hugh Neff’s Laughing Eyes Kennel in Tok, scratched from the race at 5:30 p.m. Alaska time Thursday after reaching Dawson City, the final checkpoint on the Canada side.

The rookie said he made the decision for the well-being of his team, according to a Quest news release.

 

Front of pack nears Eagle

Defending champion Allen Moore was leading a pack of four teams into Eagle at press time Thursday. Moore, who captured his third Quest title last year and calls Two Rivers home, was traveling 9 mph with his team and was 5.9 miles away from the Eagle checkpoint, which is 150 miles from Dawson.

However, Moore didn’t have much breathing room. Quest veteran Michelle Phillips, of 10 Mile, Yukon, was 9.9 miles away and traveling 7.9 mph, while Brent Sass, the 2015 champion from Eureka, was 11.6 miles away and traveling 9.3 mph at press time.

Four-time champion Hans Gatt, of Whitehorse, was traveling 8 mph and was 14.1 miles away from Eagle, and Denis Tremblay, a Quest veteran from Quebec, Canada, was 35.3 miles away and traveling 6.5 mph.

Sass was the first to leave Dawson late Wednesday night.

Follow News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal on Twitter at @FDNMQuest for updates from the Yukon Quest trail.