Jessie Holmes of Nenana seized a slim lead Saturday night in the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race.
He and his team of nine sled dogs left the Kalskag checkpoint at 5:24 p.m., two minutes ahead of Matthew Failor of Ohio, who was driving 11 dogs. In third place was Jeff King, who left at 5:39 p.m. with 10 dogs.
Failor spent much of the day as the trail leader, leading the way into the halfway point in Aniak and to the checkpoint after that in Kalskag.
Failor reached Kalskag at 2:26 p.m.. Nic Petit of Girdwood, the winner of last week’s Copper Basin 300, arrived second at 3:44 p.m. and Holmes pulled in at 4:24 p.m.
All three had to log some mandatory rest time at the checkpoint – three hours for Failor, two for Petit, one for Holmes. That meant Holmes got to leave first, followed shortly by Failor.
King reached Kalskag at 5:36 p.m., but he had already completed his mandatory rest time. He stayed for three minutes and was off again.
The next checkpoint is Tuluksak, followed by a 50-mile run to the finish line in Bethel. The race will end sometime Sunday.
Earlier Saturday, 15-year-old Jason Pavilla won the Bogus Creek 150, a companion race of the Kusko’s.
Pavilla finished at 9:37 a.m. to beat a field of veteran mushers and win a competitive race. George Manutoli, last year’s Aniak Dash winner, finished second at 9:45 a.m., and Niklas Wikstrand finished third at 9:58 a.m.
According to KYUK radio, Pavilla was running dogs from his grandfather Max Olick’s Mad River Kennel.