- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

WHITEHORSE, Yukon (AP) - Two-time defending champion Allen Moore will be the first musher to leave Whitehorse, Yukon, on Saturday in this year’s 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Moore drew his bib number Thursday night during a banquet, and then announced his starting position to the crowd.

“My eyesight isn’t that good, but I think this says No. 1,” the musher from Two Rivers, Alaska, said to cheers from the crowd estimated at more than 400 people at the Yukon Convention Centre.

Leaving in second place will be Brent Sass, and this might be deja vu for race fans.

Sass, from Eureka, Alaska, jostled for first place with Moore throughout much of last year’s race, right up until the final checkpoint, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://is.gd/9uzqHs).

But Sass fell asleep outside Braeburn and fell from his sled. The concussion forced him to scratch.

He said he’s been waiting for the Quest ever since last year, and thanked his dogs for their perseverance.

“I kind of let them down last year,” Sass said. “They’re super, super strong dogs.”

Four-time champion Lance Mackey drew the No. 8 bib, which he says is lucky because this is his eighth Quest. The 2012 champion, Hugh Neff, will race from the No. 26 position.

The Thursday banquet allows mushers to thanks their supporters and sponsors in a relaxed atmosphere. Cody Strathe of Ester, Alaska, even coaxed the crowd into singing “Happy Birthday” to a fellow musher, his wife, Paige Drobny.

Another musher from Two Rivers, rookie Ryne Olson, thanked her boyfriend for his support during her preparations for her first long-distance race. “I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when I decided to put a bunch of dogs in the backyard,” she said.

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