- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

ANVIK, ALASKA (AP) - Two-time defending champion Lance Mackey is the first musher to reach Anvik and is being treated to a gourmet dinner for arriving first.

Church bells rang out Friday to welcome Mackey as he pulled into the Yukon River community, 500 miles from the finish line in Nome. He is being feted with a seven-course meal that includes braised pork belly, Alaskan bouillabaisse and duck breast prepared by a chef flown in from Anchorage. He also receives $3,500 for being first into Anvik.

Mackey left the Shageluk (SHAG-a-luck) checkpoint earlier Thursday about three hours ahead of second-place musher Sebastian Schnuelle.

The 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome is expected to end some time next week. Three mushers have scratched, leaving 64 in the race.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SHAGELUK, Alaska (AP) _ Two-time defending champion Lance Mackey is the first musher to pass through the checkpoint at Shageluk (SHAG’-a-luck) in the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Mackey arrived at 7:35 a.m. Friday and left eight minutes later with all 16 dogs.

Aaron Burmeister is second and Sebastian Schnuelle is third, but neither had reached Shageluk, 532 miles from the Nome finish line.

Mackey receives a trophy and $3,000 in gold nuggets for being the first Thursday to reach the ghost town checkpoint of Iditarod, the halfway point of the race.

Mackey arrived in Iditarod at 5:20 p.m. Thursday to overtake Burmeister, who had been leading. He is a four-time champion of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

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