Arleigh Reynolds built his lead in the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship Sled Dog Race by posting the fastest day time in Saturday's heat.
His 12-dog team finished the 25-mile course 41 seconds ahead of Kevin Cook, looking nearly as fresh on the return as they did heading out. The lead dogs Guts and Stratus headed down Fourth Avenue on their way to the finish mark in perfect alignment, their pace and stride identical, their lines equally taut.
Cook's second-heat effort let him overtake Egil Ellis for second place overall going into Sunday's final heat. Cook ran the course with 14 dogs. Ellis started with nine and returned with eight in harness.
Two blocks into the start, John Erhart's lead dogs were distracted when a photographer went through the rope at B Street and positioned herself on the berm of the track. Lines went slack and for a moment it looked like the team might get tangled, but with good voice command and braking, Erhart was able to straighten them out without stopping or leaving the sled.
Despite the incident, Erhart moved up from eighth place to seventh, swapping places with Marvin Kokrine.
Kokrine lost his front dogs when the line broke on the run back into town. Checkpoint officials held the dogs until he could arrive with the rest of the team, tie a quick knot and hit the trail again. It was the second day of unexpected trouble for Kokrine, who encountered a loose dog on the trail on Friday.
Yukon Quest and Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, participating in the Rondy race as a rookie this year, moved from last place in a field of 15 mushers to 13th place.
His "puppy team" appeared to have learned how to deal with the trail and the crowds quickly. Mackey was the only one of the 15 mushers to chalk up a second day time that was faster than his first day time -- by three seconds.
Jack Berry dropped from 10th spot to be the Red Lantern position, taking more than two hours to run the route that took him less than 100 minutes Friday. Berry started well, but slowed considerably after reaching Campbell Airstrip and returned with two dogs in the basket.
James Wheeler, John Hanson and Bill Kornmuller all moved up to fill the gap in the standings, with Kornmuller turning in the best day time of the three, moving up two places.
The final leg of the race starts at noon on Sunday at Fourth and D Street. Mushers will leave in reverse order of their standings.
The musher's banquet is at 7 p.m. Sunday at UAA's Lucy Cuddy Center. Tickets are $35 and will be available at the door.
Musher First heat Second heat Total time
1. Arleigh Reynolds, Salcha90:57 93:02 183:59
2. Kevin Cook, Preeceville, Saskatchewan 92:43 93:43 186:26
3. Egil Ellis, Willow 92:26 95:31 187:57
4. Jason Dunlap, Salcha 92:55 95:34 188:29
5. Greg Taylor, Fairbanks 93:40 103:07 196:47
6. Ken Chezik, Fife Lake, Mich. 94:42 102:36 197:18
7. John Erhart, Tanana 96:11 105:00 201:11
8. Marvin Kokrine, North Pole 95:44 108:16 204:00
9. Donald Cousins, Crooked Creek, Alberta 97:39 107:50 205:29
10. James Wheeler, Clam Gulch 100:56 108:44 209:40
11. Bill Kornmuller, Willow 102:59 106:57 209:56
12. John Hanson, New Stuyahok 101:21 110:14 211:35
13. Lance Mackey, Fairbanks 107:31 107:28 214:59
14. Dave Turner, Sandy, Ore. 105:58 112:22 218:20
15. Jack Berry, Homer 99:32 127:27 226:59
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM