Hugh Neff wins Yukon Quest

Hugh Neff has taken the lead in the Yukon Quest. (File Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)
Hugh Neff has taken the lead in the Yukon Quest. (File Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)

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Hugh Neff won the Yukon Quest on Monday.

After flying under radar behind first half leaders Brent Sass and Allen Moore, the 2012 champ had built a commanding lead heading toward the Whitehorse finish.

Neff was first out of Braeburn on his way to the finish line. He said he was going to push it into Whitehorse.

“Just because I have this huge lead doesn’t mean I’m gonna lollygag it and take pictures or whatever,” he said.

Neff finished in Whitehorse around 2:30 p.m. PDT on Monday after starting in Fairbanks, Alaska nine days ago.

The 48-year-old took the lead at the halfway point, pushing last year’s winner Brent Sass to second place when Sass had trouble with his sled.

It’s the second time Neff has won the annual race. He took the fifth spot last year.

Neff was glowing when he made it to Braeburn in first place, despite only sleeping a couple of hours over the last two and a half days. Since then, he’s been doing long runs and short rests, pushing himself to the edge to get ahead of the competition.

Sass and Allen Moore were 2.5 hours behind, coming into Braeburn within 20 minutes of each other. The rivalry between the three Quest champions has been waging for years, and both Sass and Moore said it would be hard to beat Neff.

Braeburn is the most critical stop of the race because it’s close to the end and mushers are required to take an 8-hour rest. That means whoever comes in first leaves with fresh legs and a head start on the last hundred miles.

Contestants have been challenged by blizzards, equipment troubles and sick dogs throughout the grueling race.

The top 10 finishers will split a $115,000 prize, and Neff will take home about $35,000.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.