Phillips nips Zirkle in Yukon Quest 300

Michelle Phillips outdueled Aliy Zirkle to win the Yukon Quest 300 by eight seconds Monday night in Pelly Crossing, Yukon.

Phillips, who is from Tagish, Yukon, finished the 300-mile race in 22 hours, 20 minutes, 2 seconds.

Zirkle's narrow loss continued a bit of a trend for SP Kennel of Two Rivers. Zirkle's partner, Allen Moore, last year lost the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International by 26 seconds.

Moore was running in second place Monday in the longer race, behind defending champion Hugh Neff of Tok.

Neff was the first musher to reach the Stepping Stone checkpoint, 282 miles from Whitehorse, where the race began Saturday morning. He arrived at 5:36 a.m. AST and left at 8:47 a.m. with 13 dogs in harness.

Moore zipped right through the checkpoint at 10:25 a.m. with a 12-dog team. Jake Berkowitz of Big Lake arrived third, spent four hours, and returned to the trail at 3:14 p.m. with all 14 of his dogs.

Four-time champion of Lance Mackey is struggling. He had dropped nearly one-third of his team and was down to nine animals when he reached Stepping Stone at 7:35 p.m. AST, about 14 hours behind the leaders.

The first scratched was recorded Monday night when Ed Abrahamson decided to drop out at Carmacks, 177 miles into the race.

The frontrunners head next to Dawson City, where all mushers must take a 24-hour layover before crossing into Alaska. There, they will find something new on the trail -- a detour around American Summit.

The 3,420-foot pass was eliminated Saturday from the race route because portions of it are impassable. Teams will instead travel the Yukon River from Dawson to Eagle, slicing 50 miles off the original 1,000-mile trail.

Anchorage Daily News