UPDATE 7:15 AM TUESDAY:
Brent Sass is holding on to the lead in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the musher reached the Eagle checkpoint at 3:55 a.m. Tuesday. The earliest time he could leave the checkpoint was 7:55 a.m. Tuesday.
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 later. The earliest time of departure for Moore is 9:58 a.m.
Hugh Neff and Cody Strathe are the next two mushers expected to reach the remote checkpoint.
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.
After coming up short last year by less than 10 seconds, Aliy Zirkle blazed to victory Monday in the Yukon Quest 300, while husband Allen Moore chased leader Brent Sass in pursuit of a second straight victory in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
Zirkle, a Two Rivers musher who finished second by eight seconds last year in the 300-mile version of the Quest, arrived at the Central finish line at 7:28 p.m. Chase Tingle of New Hampshire finished second at 9:07 p.m.
More than 200 miles beyond, on their way to Eagle, were Sass, Moore and 2012 Quest champion Hugh Neff -- the top three finishers in last year's race.
Sass, a Quest veteran from Eureka who placed third a year ago, led the way in and out of Slaven's Roadhouse on Monday afternoon. The checkpoint is about 300 miles from the starting line in Fairbanks, where the race began Saturday.
Sass arrived at 10:44 a.m., with Moore (11:14 a.m.) and Neff (11:33 a.m.) joining him within an hour.
Sass left at 2:59 p.m. with a team of 13 dogs. Neff, a Tok musher driving a team of 11, left at 3:14 p.m. and Moore, with 13 in harness, left at 3:25 p.m. Moore and Neff finished 1-2 last year.
The next checkpoint is Eagle, about 160 miles closer to Canada.
Only 15 mushers remain from the original field of 18, the smallest field in history.
Mike Ellis of Fairbanks scratched Monday in Circle. On Sunday, Norman Casavant of Whitehorse and Jean-Denis Britten called it quits.
Also on Monday, Jerry Joinson of Fort St. James, British Columbia, was penalized eight hours for replacing his wrecked sled. Race rules allow mushers to replace a damaged sled, but they get penalized for doing so.
Joinson "irreparably damaged his sled on the trail between Central and Circle," said a report on the Quest website. No other details were provided.
A report on musher Hank DeBruin's Facebook page said DeBruin took a spill Monday while climbing Eagle Summit.
"There are stories about Hank crashing on Eagle," said the post from Winterdance Dogsled Tours, DeBruin's business in Haliburton, Ontario. "He had to throw the sled sideways to control it as it was floating on a small avalanche the brake was creating to avoid hitting Zeus & Howler, when doing that he hit his face on the ice that is everywhere and got a small cut."
One of DeBruin's dogs, a female named Charlie, also got a small cut on her face from an ice shard, "but a wonderful vet put in a couple of quick stitches and she is hitting the trail in lead again with Scully."
Mild weather took its toll on the trail before the race began. Officials moved the start off the Chena River and onto Fairbanks streets because of overflow, and they will move the finish 18 miles north of the usual finish line in Whitehorse, Yukon, because of thin ice on the Yukon River. They also decided to bypass American Summit because ice made portions of it impassable.
The Yukon Quest 300 went from Fairbanks to Circle City and back to Central. Last year, Zirkle came up short against Michelle Phillips.
Reach Beth Bragg at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG