From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage —
Lance Mackey may be sitting out the race, but many of his dogs are still at the front of the pack, he says.
The Fairbanks musher sold 20 male huskies to Two Rivers racer Sonny Lindner last spring, he said in an interview Wednesday, and at least 11 of the dogs started the race on Lindner’s surging team.
“I only offered them to a couple of people because I know Sonny ... would take care of them right and run them the way I would have run them,” Mackey said. “I was hoping that they would stay as a team, and they did.”
Other Mackey dogs are running with Lance’s younger brother, Jason. Those purchased by Lindner include huskies named after members of the other modern mushing dynasty, the Seaveys. Among the dogs: Mitch, Dallas, Conway and Tyrell.
“I’d love to be out there giving them a run for their money,” said Mackey, who did not enter this year’s race for the first time since 2003, citing concerns over his failing health and ability to fund a team.
“I’m looking for, in the next year or two, for the ultimate comeback of Comeback Kennels,” he said. “I’m going to be focused 100 percent on regaining my title.”
Asked who he’d bet on to win this year’s race, Mackey said you can’t help but notice Martin Buser’s fast start. Lindner and Jeff King are quick too, he said, and Aliy Zirkle could notch her first victory.
“These guys are fighters and they’re going to battle right to the very end. There aint nobody backing off or bowing out.”
Mackey chose fellow Yukon Quest winner Hans Gatt as his dark horse pick.
“He’s got a determination like no other. He’s very athletic. He’s got a big stream that’s moving fast and he’s been pretty conservative,” Mackey said.