Sass maintains lead in Iditarod, picks up cash, fish swag

March 12, 2022 GMT
FILE - Musher Brent Sass speaks to reporters after completing the nearly 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska on March 12, 2012. Sass is maintaining his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and was the first to arrive at the checkpoint in Kaltag, early Saturday, March 12, 2022. Kaltag is 629 miles (1,012 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) trek across the Alaska wilderness. The winner is expected to arrive in Nome early to mid-week. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
FILE - Musher Brent Sass speaks to reporters after completing the nearly 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska on March 12, 2012. Sass is maintaining his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and was the first to arrive at the checkpoint in Kaltag, early Saturday, March 12, 2022. Kaltag is 629 miles (1,012 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) trek across the Alaska wilderness. The winner is expected to arrive in Nome early to mid-week. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
FILE - Musher Brent Sass speaks to reporters after completing the nearly 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska on March 12, 2012. Sass is maintaining his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and was the first to arrive at the checkpoint in Kaltag, early Saturday, March 12, 2022. Kaltag is 629 miles (1,012 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) trek across the Alaska wilderness. The winner is expected to arrive in Nome early to mid-week. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
FILE - Musher Brent Sass speaks to reporters after completing the nearly 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska on March 12, 2012. Sass is maintaining his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and was the first to arrive at the checkpoint in Kaltag, early Saturday, March 12, 2022. Kaltag is 629 miles (1,012 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) trek across the Alaska wilderness. The winner is expected to arrive in Nome early to mid-week. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
FILE - Musher Brent Sass speaks to reporters after completing the nearly 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska on March 12, 2012. Sass is maintaining his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and was the first to arrive at the checkpoint in Kaltag, early Saturday, March 12, 2022. Kaltag is 629 miles (1,012 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) trek across the Alaska wilderness. The winner is expected to arrive in Nome early to mid-week. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Musher Brent Sass is maintaining his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and was the first to arrive at the checkpoint in Kaltag early Saturday.

Kaltag is 629 miles (1,012 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) trek across the Alaska wilderness. The winner is expected in Nome early to mid-week.

Sass and his team of 12 dogs arrived at 2:36 a.m. He dropped one dog from his team at the previous checkpoint in Nulato.

For reaching Kaltag first, Sass was presented a burned art piece in the shape of a fish made by local artist Apay’uq Moore, $2,000 and 25 pounds of fresh Bristol Bay salmon filets that will be delivered to him at the end of the race.

Five-time champion Dallas Seavey remained in second place, leaving the Nulato checkpoint Saturday morning after completing one of his mandatory eight-hour layovers. Seavey dropped two dogs on his team, and left Nulato with 10 dogs in harness.

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Jessie Holmes was in third place. Several other mushers, including former champions Mitch Seavey and Pete Kaiser, were on the trail to Nulato.

The Iditarod started March 6 north of Anchorage for 49 mushers; since then, four have scratched. Among those was Hugh Neff, who was in third place Friday. But in conjunction with race marshal Mark Nordman, Neff decided it was in the best interest of his team that he withdraw.

This was Neff’s first Iditarod after he was banned from competing in 2019 by both the Alaska race and the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Race officials in Alaska and Canada cited concerns over his care of dogs after his dog named Boppy died near the halfway point between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon, during the 2018 Yukon Quest.