Iditarod

Oh so quietly, Allen Moore is creating a mushing dynasty

When sled dog racing fans discuss recent mushing dynasties, the names Seavey and Mackey inevitably come up — with good reason.

Dallas and father Mitch Seavey have won the last four Iditarods. And Lance Mackey was untouchable during his four-year reigns as king of the Iditarod (2007-10) and of the Yukon Quest (2005-08).

Allen Moore of Two Rivers gets considerably less love.

But as the 58-year old steps on his sled runners Saturday morning at the start of the Copper Basin 300 in Gakona, Moore will be gunning for his fourth consecutive title in the middle-distance race and seventh in the last 11 races. He's also won two of the last four Yukon Quests, barely nipped by Brent Sass and Hugh Neff in the other two.

What a guy gotta do to get noticed in this biz?

"I think Allen is way under-appreciated, and well into being a mushing dynasty himself," said Sebastian Schnuelle, the 2009 Yukon Quest champion and a regular Copper Basin racer. "The reason that is, that both races he is doing well in ... are not as big in the media as the K-300 and the Iditarod."

In the latter race, Moore, who grew up in Arkansas, runs the kennel's B team and has never finished higher than 24th.

'On the straight-and-narrow'

For his part, Moore said he "never thought about it like that," attributing his success to a focused training program for the SP Kennel dogs and their drivers. He and wife Aliy Zirkle, runner-up in three of the last four Iditarods, work out religiously while cutting out alcohol and limiting sugar during race season. In the couple's Two Rivers home is a 140-square-foot workout room with a treadmill, weights and a Bowflex training machine.

"We work out year-round, and that has helped us more than anything the last five years," he said. "We're on the straight-and-narrow, that's for sure."

That can pay off in the latter stages of long races when exhaustion begins creeping in. "He is in an incredible physical shape and has the CB-300 down to a science," Schnuelle said.

Moore agrees that the experience gained from doing the Copper Basin year after year pays off, particularly in races in which the competition is tight; last year, for instance, he beat Ray Redington Jr. of Wasilla to the finish line by two minutes.

"I'm more familiar with the terrain and try to prepare for it," he said. "I know what's around almost every tree. I know where the water spots are and what to do before them.

"There's one in the first part of the race, I get my dogs going really fast, we turn corner and just like that, they're on it and will jump. Most of them clear the water. At that point of the race, we're going 12-14 mph, and it's just momentum.

"I know what to expect, and end up saving some time." Mushers with less CB-300 experience may have to stop and help the dogs across water, getting themselves wet and chilled in the process.

Training a contender

Among the 48 starters in this year's Copper Basin is a mixture of veterans and rookies. Among the latter is Jessica Hendricks, a four-time top-25 Iditarod finisher; Ed Hopkins of Carcross in the Yukon, who was the third in last year's Yukon Quest; Redington and Schnuelle.

There's also 27-year-old Ryne Olson, the third-place Copper Basin finisher last year and a musher Moore knows well. That's because Olson worked as a handler for him and Zirkle for two years after moving to Alaska.

"We taught her everything we know, we gave her some of our best dogs, and now she's trying to beat us," Moore said with a laugh. "Go figure."

And while Moore is back, another veteran, equally decorated, will not return. Nine-year-old dog Quito has been in lead for all of Moore's victories and second-place finishes, he said. The last five years, she's run the Yukon Quest and Iditarod back to back.

Quito gave birth to litter of puppies a couple of months ago and is still recuperating. The plan is for Quito to have a spot in the couple's second Iditarod team and show the young dogs the way to Nome.

Like Moore on the Copper Basin trail, she clearly knows the way.

Contact Mike Campbell at mcampbell@alaskadispatch.com

Mike Campbell

Mike Campbell was a longtime editor for Alaska Dispatch News, and before that, the Anchorage Daily News.

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