Jeff King: Among dog-racing royalty

February 26, 2010 

Jeff King's third Iditarod victory, in 1998, put him into the Daily News Iditarod Hall of Fame and into fast company. In 2006, he added his fourth victory, putting him one win behind all-time leader Rick Swenson.

Other mushers with four victories are Doug Swingley, Susan Butcher and Martin Buser. All are Hall of Fame members. Among them, the fivesome has won more than half of all the Iditarods run.

"Jeff King is one of the most intensely competitive mushers there is, " said Doug O'Harra, the Daily News reporter who covered King's victory dash through a fierce coastal storm in 1998.

King's competitiveness helped him carve out an enviable record in distance dog mushing. He won the Iditarod three times in his first nine years of racing, took first place in the Yukon Quest in 1989, won the Kuskokwim 300 eight times and was the victor in the 1999 International Rocky Mountain Stage Stop Sled Dog Race. King had 13 consecutive top-10 finishes in the Iditarod that ended in 2005. He has finished in the top 10 in 15 of his 18 races and has never scratched.

King started mushing dogs after he moved to Denali Park from California in 1975.

His first competitive race was a 140-mile run from Nenana to Manley Hot Springs and back. King finished third, and he has been racing ever since. He and his wife, Donna, have three daughters, all of whom have grown up with dogs and mushing. Cali joined her father on the trail in 2003. In her rookie race, Cali finished 32nd.

"Donna was pregnant with our oldest when we ran the first Yukon Quest," King said. "That was a lot of new experiences jammed into the front seat of a Toyota pickup." The Kings live now in a log home that they built, lost to fire and rebuilt. The home also is headquarters for their Goose Lake Kennels. King has a shrewd eye for dogs.

"He has earned a reputation as a meticulous and careful dog trainer," O'Harra said.

Inducted 1999 Greatest accomplishment Won three Iditarods in first nine years of racing; had 13 consecutive top-10 finishes. Vital stats Born: North Fork, Calif. Hometown: Denali Park Age: 54 Best finish 1st -- 1993, '96, '98, 2006 Fastest time 1996 -- 9 days, 5 hours, 43 minutes Race record 1981 28th 1991 12th 1992 6th 1993 1st 1994 3rd 1995 7th 1996 1st 1997 3rd 1998 1st 1999 7th 2000 3rd 2001 3rd 2002 6th 2003 3rd 2004 2nd 2005 12th 2006 1st 2007 5th 2008 2nd 2009 12th Awards First to Yukon -- 1991, '93, 2004 Halfway -- 1993, '97 Gold Coast -- 1996, '98, 2006, '07 Safety to Nome -- 1993 Golden Harness (to outstanding lead dog) -- 1993, '98, 2006 Joe Redington Sr. -- 1999 Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian -- 2003 Spirit of Alaska -- 2004

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