Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Marcel Vander Wier

SORRY TO SCRATCH – Matt Hall speaks with reporters in Pelly Crossing Monday afternoon after announcing he had quit the race. Hall, 23, was the Yukon Quest rookie of the year in 2014.

‘It’s not fair to ask eight dogs to go 700 miles’

Two veteran mushers — including 2014 rookie of the year Matt Hall — and a pair of rookies have scratched from the Yukon Quest.

By Christopher Reynolds on February 10, 2015

PELLY CROSSING – Two veteran mushers — including 2014 rookie of the year Matt Hall — and a pair of rookies have scratched from the Yukon Quest.

Hall, Scott Smith, Tamra Reynolds and Tony Angelo dropped out Monday, meaning two of the last two years’ top five finishers are gone from the contest. The race to Fairbanks began Saturday morning in Whitehorse.

Hall, who placed third in 2014, bowed out Monday afternoon in Pelly Crossing.

“It was just kind of an unfortunate start from the beginning. Dropping dogs. They just weren’t quite doing what they needed to be doing,” he said.

“They didn’t want to be there.”

Hall, at 23 the youngest competitor on the trail, was already two dogs down on arrival in Carmacks on Sunday afternoon. He had carried the pair of 60- pounders in his sled for five hours.

He noted the jumble of jagged ice on the Yukon River between Carmacks and Pelly didn’t help things.

“It’s real likely that something happened out there on the ice. But I didn’t notice anything,” Hall said.

“Sometimes when a dog gets sore on you, it takes a little to notice it, like a human.”

Hall took off from Pelly six dogs down at 2:30 p.m. Monday, but soon turned back.

“I look up at my team and we got eight dogs going along right now.

“And it’s like, it’s not about me right now, I’m here because of them. And it’s not fair to ask eight dogs to go 700 miles just on my behalf,” he said in an interview. “Then I started getting teary-eyed about it. Man, this is hard.

“I’m happy with my decision at the moment,” he added.

Hall, who last year won awards for best vet care and best exemplifying the “spirit of the Yukon Quest”, prepared his dogs thoroughly in the lead-up to the 1,600-kilometre marathon.

“The team was trained incredibly this year. We put over 3,000 miles on them. And all we had was one dog with both her wrists sore,” he said.

“And then we come here and go 300 miles and we’ve got six sore dogs.”

Last year, his team ran 1,700 miles (2,740 kilometres) in training, “which most people would say is kind of under-trained, and we did awesome.”

Hall, who was raised in Eagle, Alaska, reflected on the fickleness of the sport.

“It is frustrating. Especially when you’re devoting your life to it and all your training, it’s frustrating when it doesn’t work out.”

He said he would be thinking about what to do differently next year.

“In no way is this the end. Going to get home, heal up, train up and we’ll be back.”

Hall plans to run a short race in Two Rivers, Alaska, where he keeps his kennel, but no others in 2015.

Race marshal Doug Grilliot told the Star the four scratches are “not really an inordinate number.

“We’re a little over 200 miles into the race here. Incidents happen.”

None of the dog drops involved serious injuries, just “minor ailments,” he said.

So far, two dogs have been driven back to Whitehorse for clinical checks after they displayed symptoms of myopathy, where muscle tissue breaks down

“Things happen,” he said.

Veteran musher Scott Smith, 45, scratched in Carmacks early Monday morning. The resident of Willow, Alaska, ran his first Quest in 2013, placing a respectable fifth.

Tamra Reynolds, a 42-year-old rookie from Annie Lake, scratched Monday morning.

Another rookie, Tony Angelo, took a curtain call Monday afternoon as well. The 55-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Fairbanks, Alaska, who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, noted training for the race was among the “toughest” exercises he’s ever done — next to U.S. Army Ranger training.

All scratches occurred “for the wellbeing of (the) team,” according to Quest releases.

See related coverage.

Comments (3)

Up 33 Down 2

sr on Feb 11, 2015 at 10:27 am

The most Hans (Gatt) ever trained his team was 1800 miles before the race. Starts training in mid-September. He still holds the record for the fastest time for the Yukon Quest, and won it 4 times. Matt should stick with the 1700 miles he was doing when he had his best year.

"The time off between the training runs is equally as important as the training run itself. There is no question about that. After a certain mileage you are just putting wear and tear on their joints and tendons. And their brain too." - Hans having his coffee here.

Good luck with your racing Matt. You sound like the type of musher I like to see out there. Someone who has empathy for his dogs and who sees that they love to be out there. But who knows when to pull the plug when dogs are getting hurt and when things are not going well.

Up 40 Down 2

pamela perrine on Feb 11, 2015 at 9:28 am

I quit watching the Kentucky Derby after not missing a race for nearly 41 yrs b/c it was evident that the horses were being forced to compete even when it was not in their best interest. I am so thankful that the people involved in this sport place the well-being of their dogs over 'the win'!!! I applaud each musher who has put their team first! You all rock!

Up 48 Down 0

June Jackson on Feb 10, 2015 at 5:09 pm

I am glad to see so much responsibility and caring about their animals.

How a man treats his animals is a reflection on what kind of man he is. I know these folks wanted to win the race..but obviously..not at any price. I respect you all for that.

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