Mackey Says Dog Troubles are Hampering His Iditarod Chances

Ellen Lockyer and Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Martin Buser is enjoying his 24 hour layover in the Iditarod checkpoint town of Tokotna, on the Kuskokwim river. The Big Lake musher arrived last night a little after 10 o’clock with 15 dogs.

The tiny town is crowded this evening, with 34 mushers camped out there. Lance Mackey arrived an hour and 45 minutes behind Buser. Sebastian Schnuelle, Hugh Neff, Ray Redington Junior and Mitch Seavey followed close behind.

A handful of mushers have pushed passed Takotna and onto the Ophir checkpoint, including Robert Nelson, Trent Herbst and Cim Smyth. They are currently at the top of the standings, but Buser should quickly regain the lead once he pulls out of Takotna tonight.

Many mushers have struggled with dog illness and injury this year, but not Buser:

Buser is chasing his 5th Iditarod win. Lance Mackey was also hoping to earn that distinction this year, but the defending champion says it doesn’t look promising. Tending his dogs in Takotna this afternoon, Mackey sounded frustrated:

Mackey is famous for pulling surprise moves out on the trail to secure big leads. But of the four dogs he’s dropped already, three were seasoned veterans. And he says that means he’ll have to hold back a bit:

Mackey can’t point to any one thing that’s affecting his team. He says kennel cough has been a problem. He also says the trail is nice, because its covered in snow. But he says it is inconsistent- hard and fast in places and then soft and sugary in others. He says that’s been tough on the dogs:

Gerry Willomitzer became the sixth musher to scratch this year. He made the decision at the McGrath checkpoint today after assessing his dog team overnight

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