Brent Sass withdraws from 2017 Iditarod after scratching from the Yukon Quest

Musher Brent Sass has withdrawn from the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for "personal reasons," the Iditarod Trail Committee announced Saturday.

Sass, a 37-year-old Eureka musher, contacted Iditarod staff by email Friday about his decision to withdraw from the 1,000-mile race to Nome, according to a brief statement from the committee.

Sass' withdrawal brings the 2017 Iditarod field down to 72 mushers.

The Iditarod announcement comes about a week after Sass chose to withdraw from the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest.

Sass wrote in an email to Alaska Dispatch News on Saturday that he had a rough week and planned to remain at his home in Eureka for awhile.

"As for Iditarod, my dogs are happy and healthy, but I don't personally think that this race will prove a positive experience for me," Sass wrote.

Sass scratched from the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest last Sunday about 150 miles away from the finish line. Two of his dogs had fallen over on the trail, according to a post the next day on his kennel's Facebook page, Wild and Free Mushing.


His 3-year-old dog, Healy, fell over on its side in "mid stride without any signs or warnings," said the lengthy online post. "Twenty minutes later, his brother Caputo did exactly the same thing."

Sass used his tracker device to call for help on the trail. Race officials determined his dogs were in stable condition, and Sass scratched from the race.

In the post on his kennel's Facebook page, Sass questioned whether a genetic issue was to blame and apologized that his team did not make it to the finish.

Sass had won the Yukon Quest in 2015 and placed second last year.

He followed that up with a 20th-place finish in the 2016 Iditarod. In that race, Sass slipped from third place to 20th after his team refused to leave White Mountain, 77 miles shy of the finish line. After a long rest at the checkpoint, an emotional Sass eventually pulled into Nome with his team.

"Just mentally, I wore them out. I pushed it a little bit too far," Sass said at the finish line. "It's been a gut-wrenching 24 hours."

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.