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Four-time champion Jeff King leads Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

March 12, 2010 |  1:47 pm

Jeff King checks his watch as he leaves a checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King was the first musher to make it to the checkpoint in Ruby, Alaska, the 14th of 25 checkpoints in this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

King, who has made it known that this will be his last year competing, arrived at 3:08 a.m. Friday with 15 dogs on his team.

As the recipient of the "First Musher to the Yukon Award," King was treated to an eight-course meal prepared on camp stoves by the Millennium Hotel Anchorage Food and Beverage manager, Jared Leake.

This year’s menu included Alaskan king crab, bison stew, and grilled halibut in citrus sauce, plus a lemon sorbet and a blackberry jubilee. He also won $3,500 in $1 bills.

Thus far, 11 other teams have reached Ruby, according to the Live Leader Board posted on the Anchorage Daily News website, including defending and three-time champion Lance Mackey as well as last year's second-place finisher, Sebastian Schnuelle, of Whitehorse, Canada.

Two more teams have scratched since Thursday's post:

Musher Karen Ramstead scratched Thursday at the McGrath checkpoint.  Ramstead, 45, from Perryville, Canada, had 14 dogs on her team when she made the decision to scratch for personal reasons.

Tom Thurston scratched Friday, also at McGrath.  The 39-year-old musher from Oak Creek, Colo., had nine dogs on his team when he made the decision, citing his team’s performance as the main factor.

Meanwhile, a side story involves musher Justin Savidis from Willow, Alaska. Savidis lost one of his team members, Whitey, on Wednesday between Nikolai and McGrath checkpoints. 

The 3-year-old male dog is said to have been sighted on numerous occasions, but when Savidis joined Alaska State Troopers on an aerial search they were not able to locate him. Volunteers on the ground, as well as other pilots in the area, are on alert and keeping an eye out in the effort to locate the dog.

Savidis remains in McGrath with his team in hopes that Whitey will be found and returned to him -- Iditarod rules do not allow a musher to advance in the race without the same team that left the previous checkpoint.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Jeff King checks his watch as he leaves a checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News / Associated Press

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