- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Brent Sass was holding on to the lead in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race Tuesday, leaving the Eagle checkpoint two hours before his closest rival, thanks to a stealthy overnight maneuver.

The musher reached Eagle at 3:55 a.m. Tuesday, leaving four hours later after a mandatory rest to head for the halfway point in Dawson. The first musher to arrive in Dawson wins 4 ounces of placer gold.

According to the live tracker on the website of the 1,000-mile race, defending champion Allen Moore arrived at Eagle slightly more than two hours after Sass. He left the checkpoint at 10 a.m.

Hugh Neff reached the remote checkpoint at 6:30 a.m. and departed at 10:34 a.m.

Sass gained his edge over Moore and Neff by employing a little craftiness.

Ten miles before a hospitality cabin, Sass slowed his team, allowing Moore and Neff to pass him. Instead of stopping to join them at the cabin as anticipated, Sass turned off his headlamp and barreled on, making the run to Eagle in one stretch, , the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/h2IFh2) reported Tuesday.

“I tricked ‘em,” Sass said with a smile in Eagle, his dogs looking spry. Sass was thrilled with his team’s stamina.

“I just had the best run my life - it was amazing,” he said. “They just got stronger and stronger as they went down the trail.”

Fifteen mushers remain in the race that began Saturday in Fairbanks. Mike Ellis scratched Monday at the Circle checkpoint.

The race will end near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

Sass said Moore and Neff have faster teams than his. So he relies on long runs and power over mountainous stretches. Those are the areas he focused on in training this winter by including frequent back-to-back runs of at least 90 miles.

Moore said he was finding it tough to keep his team under control on the fast trail.

“It’s a little bit hard and a little bit icy,” he said. “My leg’s sore from standing on the brake.”

Neff said he was having a troublesome ride. He’s wiped out four times, once hitting his head on the ice, he said. Walter, his most experienced dog on the team, struggled and spent about 20 miles riding in the sled.

“It seems like everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Neff said.

___

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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