Monday, February 26, 2024

Iditarod 52 top "ten"

Let's face it, this blog will never have a true top ten. With a smaller roster and more competitive teams than ever it's more than impossible to narrow it down. Too many variables. Too many changes to roster last minute that could shake things up. Too many, too many, too many!

With the news last week of first Eddie Burke Jr. being DQed from the race last Tuesday (only to be reinstated Friday, then announced Monday he's withdrawing) and Brent Sass DQed on Thursday, predictions blew apart for everyone. It will be interesting to see how the drama will effect not just the teams involved, but the race in general. If this race goes off like other "over dramatc" years, it may all be forgotten for the two weeks of Iditarod as everyone gathers to celebrate. Often the pomp and circumstance of the Ceremonial and Re-Start have a way of helping fans and the mushing community move on - especially if the starts are a success.

With a roster of thirty-nine teams the roster is a who's who of competitive long distance teams. Three Iditarod Champions are on the roster, two teams are back after a short hiatus, and perennial favorites. It's a roster that seems very familiar, and yet new at the same time.

But who takes top prize is anyone's guess. Let's take a look at some solid bets for your Fantasy Team.

Aaron Burmeister
- One of the mushers that has tried and failed to stay away. Burmeister took the 2023 race off as a hiatus to spend more time with the family. Burmeister has found himself consistently in the top ten over the last decade with just a couple of dips out of it. He came close to winning the whole thing in 2021 when he almost caught Dallas in the final hours of the Gold Loop Trail. Burmeister's been quiet this season, choosing not to run the Kusko 300 as he'd originally planned citing concerns over the weather and trail conditions. Could the year off be what Aaron needed to finally bring his first win in his home town?



Dallas Seavey
- The other musher who chose to take last year off and then surprised many when he showed up in June to sign up for the 52nd running of Iditarod. The five-time champion spent last year's race on the back of an iron dog to - he said - share the experience with his kiddo... but was he also studying his future competition? One thing is for certain, Dallas' quest for six is back on and it may be a bumpy one. Fans will remember that one of Dallas' handlers was running a team on the Denali Highway when it was struck by a snow machine. Several dogs were injured and killed - some that may have made Dallas's team for Iditarod otherwise. Dallas' operation is big enough that he should still have a strong team to challenge for another title, and it never hurts to run with a chip on your shoulder. The real question is - will we see The Sweater?

Jessie Holmes - Six Iditarods. Six finishes. Four top ten finishes. It looks like Team Can't Stop lives up to their name. Jessie Holmes is the "reality star" though he's more than capable of long distance mushing. He's had a short race season this year, but he very nearly ran down Brent Sass in the Copper Basin 300. Holmes has the goal and drive to win Iditarod, but as we all know it's a whole lot easier on paper than it is to actually do. Jessie is an interior musher who lives a subsistence lifestyle. His dogs are used to colder temperatures so this crazy winter weather Alaska's had recently could play a huge factor on how his team responds to the race. Look for Jessie to run a very aggressive race unless things warm up.


Jessie Royer - One of the few mushers to finish "in the money" with the full team of dogs (and when it was still sixteen dogs at that!), Jessie Royer is a constant in the top ten. The Musher who divides her time between Montana and Alaska (and also divides her time between mushing and mounted shooting) is a fan favorite. She's one of the quiet ones, the steady ones, she's always in the mix but she isn't getting much of the attention. She isn't flashy, she isn't showing off in anyway. She just does it. She rarely complains, she rarely gets excitable. She takes care of her dogs, they head down the trail, and they do well. She calculated and strategic. A good combination for a team. Look for Royer to hang back for the first third of the race before she picks off the teams in front of her.

Matthew Failor - The "17th dog" dog team and musher, Failor is coming off another second place finish in the highly competitive Kuskokwim 300 narrowly missing the chance to run down Pete Kaiser. Failor told the local media that he is "really, really good" at finishing second. Failor finally cracked the top ten last year finishing 8th in the Iditarod. Matthew's won the Most Improved musher several times in Iditarod, and won Most Inspirational for having to dispatch several moose on the trail sacrificing his race as he had to dress each one. He prides himself on having won several humanitarian (ie best cared for dogs) in other races. The new dad should have a good run to Nome.


Matt Hall - This newly wed combined kennels with his bride and is now one half of the mushing team of Silver Aces kennel. Hall is a former Yukon Quest Champion (back in the day of thousand mile races). Matt pulled off a fourth place finish in the Iditarod and in 2021 won most inspirational musher. He's been mushing the majority of his life, starting his own kennel at age 16. Matt's finished in the top ten twice in his five Iditarods - his rookie year he barely missed the top ten coming in 11th place. Hall had a strong finish in the Copper Basin 300 this year placing fifth. If all goes right he should see another top ten finish in this year's Iditarod.



Paige Drobny
  - Squid Acres is the place to be! Dog mushin' is the life for.... sorry, got carried away. If you aren't aware of Paige Drobny you haven't been paying attention. Drobny and her Squids are often near or on top of the podium at any race, and while she hasn't always cracked the top ten at Iditarod she's poised to jump back into that ranking with the Squids not being divided by two teams this year. Paige came in fourth place in the Copper Basin and her husband Cody Strathe came in third. Combining the best of both teams into one mega team just may be the key to Drobny meeting or beating her best placement (two 7th place finishes). 



Pete Kaiser - The 2019 Iditarod Champion just won his eighth Kukso 300 with a full compliment of 12 dogs at the finish. Kaiser owns his hometown race, focusing much of his energy in competiting for top prize. The last couple of years for Iditarod fans were left wondering if Kaiser had plans to sign up, the champion choosing to wait and sign up later than what most do. Pete gave last year's champion a major run for his money, seeming to catch up to him in the final leg and be poised to overtake him, but the Bethel musher chose to hang back and give his dogs more rest - reading their needs over his need for a win. Second place is nothing to sniff at, and Pete gave quite the show for fans (he also got high praise from Dallas Seavey in the impromptu Insider feeds). Could it be Kaiser's turn to repeat in Iditarod this year?

Ryan Redington
- Speaking of last year's champion. He did it. A Redington is finally champion (and for this year reigning) of Joe Redington Sr's race. As most champions will tell you, repeating is crazy hard. Few have won it a second time much less consecutively. Many of the ones that have in modern race history were generational mushers. Ryan is a generational musher. Redington had to change all of his mushing plans this year as his winter training grounds in the Lower 48 never had winter, so he pivoted and traveled to Alaska to hit up all of the races he normally misses. The reigning champ has a new found swagger of confidence which could help him navigate his defending championship run. 


Travis Beals
- Though the last couple of years he's not made it to the top ten, Travis seems to be in a very good headspace with a strong team to make it back in and challenge for a top spot. Beals is a new dad who is now training out of Knik, home of many wonderful trails - including the Iditarod trail he's planning to head down this weekend. Travis finished third in the Kusko 300, a huge achievement. Travis writes in his Iditarod Bio that he feels he's starting to get to the point where the things in his life outside of mushing are in order to make his goal of winning Iditarod possible. Travis with partner Sarah Stokey welcomed their first child, Elias, this past year.




But, what about...?! you say. Of course we aren't going to stop at ten. When has this blog ever stopped at ten? We have a few honorable mentions/wildcards. 

Let's not forget Amanda Otto who nearly ran down Brent Sass last year in the Yukon Quest Alaska with a crazy amazing run in the last leg after banking a ton of rest to push her team on a monster leg. It was incredible and showed her tenacity and her ability to read her team and know how far she could ask them to go. She runs a team out of Jeff King's Husky Homestead so you know it's a good one.

Let's also not forget Hunter Keefe, the happiest musher the world has ever seen. Okay, that's a made up on the spot declaration on this blog's part, but seriously - HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE HUNTER? Keefe runs dogs out of Raymie and Barb Redington's kennel... the parents of the reigning Iditarod Champion. Hunter narrowly missed out on winning Rookie of the Year, and he's had a fantastic season this year as well. Hunter came in fourth at the Kusko 300 in his rookie race. Keefe's positive attitude through any number of trials on the trail keeps his head on straight and he just goes. He even beat Ryan Redington this year! Honestly he probably SHOULD be in the top ten.

We'll put Mille Porsild in here as well, though Mille reported early in the season she's in a sort of rebuilding year with a very young team. Mille's also been sick recently and has had to rely on help of others to keep the training miles up while she recovers (she says she is now on the mend.) Still, Mille is a force on the trail (and off) so if the chips fall into place expect her to blow the top ten wide open.

Last but not least Nicolas Petit needs a mention. Why he isn't in the top ten this year is mainly due to his very lackluster season. While he hasn't bombed completely the musher has been very open about his struggles this year. Not able to get the right food his team enjoys (quality beef), stressing about finances, and just a series of unfortunate setbacks. Petit decided to scale back and focus on the Iditarod - but he kept up appearances by commenting on each race he missed (and some he attended as a spectator - like Fur Rondy this past weekend) via social media. He weighed in on the Idita-drama, and genuinely enthralled his fans with his haiku like posts. It's anyone's guess how Nic's Iditarod plays out this time.

One last musher that needs a mention - Anna Berington. For the first time in *counts on fingers but gives up* a long time, the Beringtons are not running the Iditarod together. Due to rising costs of running a successful racing kennel, the reinstating of the 16-dog team, and Kristy wanting to start a family with her husband, the Seeing Double Racing Kennel decided to take the next step and create one very competitive team. This could be another wildcard, and Anna may very well end up with the award for most improved musher. Anna placed 22nd in last year's Iditarod, so depending on where she ends up finishing she could have the biggest jump in placement.

As with every Iditarod, the certain is never truly certain. So many factors come into play, and just one wrong hair can be enough to derail a top team's plan. But, these names are almost certain to keep you in the running in the Fantasy Mushing realm. (That being said this blogger has yet to crack the top 100 much less the top 10 in Fantasy Mushing.)


So, who are your top ten? Who do you hope takes the top prize? Comment below with your thoughts on this top ten (and then some).

If you like what you see and want to support my addiction (I mean HOBBY) of following these races and stalking (I mean cheering on) the mushers, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that really goes to paying for my internet/web expenses).

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Iditarod 52 rookie class

Sixteen rookies are ready to head to Nome this March for the 52nd running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Each musher has their own story and reason for why they are in the sport and why this is their year to run the Last Great Race. Unlike many Iditarods, only five mushers are running dogs entirely out of someone else's kennel (though in each case they have trained with the dogs they're taking to Nome exclusively), the majority of rookies have their own kennel program. The future is looking strong for mid-distance mushing even with the hardships of the current economy and climate. 

Like all hopeful graduates, the sixteen rookies will have to take a final exam filled with so many unexpected twists and turns. While they must participate in the mandatory rookie meeting several months before race day as well as qualify for the race and get veteran mushers to sign off on their abilities, the rookies still have no real knowledge of just what they will face. Sure, they've heard the stories, they've seen the videos, they know the warnings. But it's one thing to know it and another thing to live it. How many of them will pass their final exam and graduate? Who will get top marks? We'll know in three to four weeks from now.

Anna Hennessy - Anna's rookie run will take her down the trail with a team of dogs out of Kathleen Fredrick's Shameless Huskies kennel. Anna has been mushing for about eight years, the last three winters with Kathleen in Alaska. Anna is an ER nurse and adventurist in her off time. She has had solid finishes in all of her mid-distance races leading up to her biggest test yet. To learn more about Anna you can check out her Iditarod Bio, Website, Kennel Facebook Page, and Instagram.

Benjamin Good - Another one of those "two-year plan" Alaskans who just wanted a couple years of adventure and it turned into a lifetime. Good stated in his bio that he got into dogs learning to skijor using a couple of dogs from Aaron Burmeister's kennel. Good's team has seen some success in races over the years and he's won the vet award in a couple. Iditarod, as we know, is a beast all its own and far longer distance than what he's run previously - but he has run the shorter Quests so he has seen some tough terrain. You can learn more about Benjamin by checking out his Iditarod Bio, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Bryce Mumford - Mushing is a family affair for the Mumfords. Bryce got into dog mushing after watching a tv special on the Iditarod in 2008. While Bryce is the one who got the family into the sport, his father and his kids are also racing these days. Mumford notes that one of his proudest moments in the sport is winning an award for best dog care in the Race to the Sky race. Mumford is one of the few teams not from Alaska in the Iditarod this year. To learn more about Bryce and the Mushing Mumfords you can read his Iditarod Bio, Website, and Instagram.

Calvin Daugherty - Iditarod fans may recognize this kid as being the son of Iditarod veteran (and Everest climber) Larry Daugherty. Calvin has worked full time with Mitch Seavey's kennel for the last few years and it's now his turn to take the Team Seavey dogs to Nome. It will be interesting to see what his Iditarod schedule will be - will he be holding back like many of the "handler" teams have in the past, or will he be given more freedom to challenge for a top spot? With Mitch not running it could be that Calvin will have a role similar to Christian Turner's role last year. Let's just hope he doesn't take after his dad and become a sequel to the "Lost Boys". You can learn more about Calvin by checking out his Iditarod Bio, and Instagram.

Connor McMahon - The musher who named his kennel Feral Racing has been working with dogs since age fifteen and it was a malamute with "behavior issues" that got him into mushing. The one-dog team instilled a desire to mush full time and that's what the Canadian does now. Training and racing dogs in the winter and giving rides in the summer at Caribou Crossing. McMahon's 30 dog kennel has worked for this moment. To learn more about Connor you can read his Iditarod Bio, website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Erin Altemus - Erin and her husband run a kennel of 30 dogs called Sawtooth Racing in Minnesota. It's taken twelve years to get here as the dream took a backseat as they had and raised their daughter who is now six years old. Erin says she has the right team and circumstances to make Iditarod 2024 the right time. Fun fact, Sawtooth Racing is where fellow rookie Anna Hennessy learned to mush before moving on to Shameless Huskies in Alaska. You can read more about Erin via her Iditarod Bio, Website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Gabe Dunham - Gabe is one of the second year rookies in the race this year. Gabe originally ran in 2020... yes... THAT 2020. The year the race went from normal to half way through finding out that a pandemic was shutting everything down and checkpoints were being moved well out of villages to protect their populations. Gabe made it to Unalakleet before having to scratch. She's been 2/3 of the way down the trail. Gabe ran this year's Kusko to get her team some coastal trail experience. The Evermore Adventure team is ready to tackle that last third. Dunham has also been under the mentorship of Linwood Fiedler. To learn more about Gabe you can visit her Iditarod Bio, Website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Isaac Teaford - This Navy Vet turned musher has worked his way up the ladder of handler to B-team driver for Dallas Seavey's racing kennel. Many will remember Teaford as being one of the mushers involved in the snowmachine incident on the Denali Highway in November. While it wasn't his team that was hit, he was first on scene and had to help with the triage and dog care. After several months of no doubt reliving those moments Isaac will be on the runners living out a dream he's had for a long while now - the ultimate healing experience. Don't expect Teaford to be racing for Rookie of the Year, but don't expect him to be last either. (According to his Insider interview he's also quite musical.) You can learn more about Isaac by reading his Iditarod Bio, his Facebook Page, and his Instagram.

Jeff Reid - Probably one of the smallest kennels represented in this year's race. Jeff is another military veteran who found mushing as a way of healing. He found mushing after reading Gary Paulsen's Winterdance. He and his wife moved to Alaska where Jeff began working with Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore before forming his own kennel with dogs from them as well as Sebastian Schnuelle. Frozen Trident kennel is close to 7 years old, now, and they are ready to hit the trail. To learn more about Jeff you can visit his Iditarod Bio, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Joshua Robbins - Another military veteran who works at restoring other veterans dealing with post military life and mental health, Joshua runs his small kennel on the Little Willow River with purpose. Robbins has been living this lifestyle for the last 4 years. He's won awards in mid distance races voted on by his fellow mushers. He seems to be a favorite in the community. You can read up on Joshua by checking out his Iditarod Bio, Website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Josi Thyr - The There and Back Again musher has turned heads this season as she's competed against some of "the best" in the sport and managed high placements. Josi came third in the recent Yukon Quest Alaska in the 300 mile race, coming behind an Iditarod champion and former Iditarod Rookie of the Year (and she would be rookie of the year for the YQA except second place got that honor this year). Josi has been mentored by some of the best in Iditarod, handling for both Aaron Burmeister and Jessie Royer. She could challenge for Rookie of the Year this year. To learn more about Josi, read her Iditarod Bio, Website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Lara Kittleson - The second team out of Mitch Seavey's kennel this year will be driven by Kittleson. This handler is also a talented artist and writer. Don't expect Lara to challenge for Rookie of the Year but do expect her to finish as the goal of any Seavey handled team is to get the young dogs safely to Nome at a good steady pace that is both fun for the dogs as well as a good test for their future. Lara has a very upbeat and positive personality that if you've ever met her you know she'll be one of those mushers having fun out on the trail with the pups she calls her "tater tots". Read more about Lara through her Iditarod Bio, and Instagram.

Lauro Eklund - Eklund is an established generational musher from the Interior of Alaska. His good natured posts have found their way into the hearts of many fans. On top of that, he's just a good dog driver. They're a steady team that like cold temperatures. Eklund has studied races and learns from the best in how to schedule a race. That came to a head last year in the Yukon Quest Alaska as the race marshal decided to end Eklund's race early (in any other year his schedule would have kept him middle to the front of the pack). Lauro should be able to get that belt buckle as long as he sticks to his schedule and the front runners don't speed up the race. You can learn more about Lauro by checking out his Iditarod Bio, Website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Sean Williams - Another rookie who's gone down the trail but didn't quite make it all the way, this time Williams is running his own dogs. Williams learned a lot from working with Martin Buser for years. Sean now runs his own dogs as part of the group that hosts tours out of Alaskan Mushing School. Like many of the Happy Trails Alumn, Sean is capable of reading his dogs and knowing what they can do and what they need. Read more about Sean via his Iditarod Bio, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Severin Cathry - Severin achieved a lifelong dream 14 years ago when he visited Alaska and rode on a "real life dog sled" - he was hooked. The musher grew up on a dairy farm but is now all huskies. Severin will run a team out of Midnight Howler's Racing Kennel - home of junior musher Arien Sanderson (who is running the Junior Iditarod this weekend). Learn more about Severin by reading his Iditarod Bio, and Facebook page.

Will Rhodes - This rookie is one of those where you wonder how this could be their rookie race. If you know mushing you probably know Will Rhodes. Will shares a kennel with his wife Brenda Mackey. The Mackey's Alaskan Distance Dogs kennel tried their paws at the Gold Loop trail in 2021 but illness took them out before they could complete it - Brenda was running that time. This time it's Will's turn. Expect Will to run a solid race, and he could easily challenge for Rookie of the Year - though that won't be his goal (is my guess). Happy, healthy dogs at the FINISH is the goal for all of these teams. Will is also one of the mushers who prides himself on winning awards for best dog care. Read more about Will from his Iditarod Bio, Website, Facebook page, and Instagram.


Sixteen mushers will run to Nome in just a little over a week with the one goal of completing the race and obtaining their finisher's buckle (and their membership into the exclusive Iditarod Sled Dog Race Finishers Club). They are attempting what few have tried and many have dreamed. This is one of the bigger rookie classes with a lot of talented teams. Each one to make it to the starting line is a winner in many ways after tackling finances, qualifiers, drop bags, and all hoops in-between. Here's to Iditarod's Class of 2024! Good luck, Rookies, may you soon be rookies no more!


Who are you excited to cheer for? Who do you think will come out on top as Rookie of the Year? Comment below with your thoughts!

If you like what you see and want to support my addiction (I mean HOBBY) of following these races and stalking (I mean cheering on) the mushers, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that really goes to paying for my internet/web expenses).

Monday, February 19, 2024

Iditarod 52 musher roster

It is time! The countdown is finally on! We're at the 10ish day mark before teams line 4th Avenue in Downtown Anchorage for the Ceremonial Start. We'll ignore the pouring rain South Central Alaska has going for it this week and will think cold and snow for the first weekend in March (though a second Iditaslush cup might make for some fun pictures, right Mr. Schultz?) 

Seriously, though, it's our favorite time of year as the Fur Rondy and Iditarod action get underway. With that comes all of the standard blog posts on Reitter's Block, and first up - to maybe help you familiarize yourself with the teams as you create your Fantasy Mushing team - is the musher roster.

Thirty-nine mushers are currently on the roster (there were 40 until this afternoon when Iditarod announced a popular musher has been disqualified citing Rule 53 - the personal conduct rule). There are four Iditarod Champions currently listed. Sixteen of the thirty-nine are rookies. Eleven women plan to take teams to Nome. Five countries are represented.

Thirty-nine mushers are currently on the roster (there were 40, but then two disqualifications of mushers happened due to personal conduct concerns - now one of those teams has been reinstated) There are three Iditarod Champions currently listed. Sixteen of the thirty-nine are rookies. Eleven women plant to take teams to Nome. Five countries are represented.

As always the roster is in sign up order until after the bib numbers are released post Musher Banquet on the Thursday evening before the race. Kennels have been noted and public social media links for each team are linked when possible. There's always room for error, if corrections need to be made be sure to comment below!

Without further adieu, your Iditarod 52 lineup!

MusherKennelLinkLinkLink
Josi ThyrThere & Back Again Sled DogsWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Connor McMahonFeral RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Jason MackeyMackey's TopNotch Comeback KennelWebsiteFacebook
Jeff DeeterBlack Spruce Dog SleddingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Hunter KeefeRedington's Mush AlaskaWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Lauro EklundSkookum ExpeditionsWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Isaac TeafordDallas Seavey RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Dallas SeaveyDallas Seavey RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Jessie RoyerThe J TeamWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Jessica KlejkaTailwind KennelWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Gabe DunhamEvermore AdventuresWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Mille PorsildRunning Sled DogsWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Joshua RobbinsOutreach 22WebsiteFacebookInstagram
Anna BeringtonSeeing Double RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Jessie HolmesCan't Stop Racing KennelWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Ryan RedingtonRedington MushingWebsiteFacebook
Travis BealsTurning Heads KennelWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Mats PetterssonKiruna Sled DogsWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Bryce MumfordMushing MumfordsWebsiteInstagram
Erin AltemusSawtooth RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Matt HallSilver Ace Sled DogsWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Nicolas PetitNic Petit RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Deke NaaktgeborenNautique Sky KennelWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Will RhodesMackey's Alaskan Distance DogsWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Amanda OttoHusky HomesteadWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Anna HennessyShameless HuskiesWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Bailey VitelloTeam BaileyWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Jeff ReidFrozen TridentFacebookInstagram
Severin CathryTurning Heads KennelWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Paige DrobnySquid AcresWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Sean WilliamsAlaska Mushing SchoolWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Calvin DaughertySeavey's IdidarideWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Matthew Failor17th Dog/Alaskan Husky AdventuresWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Benjamin GoodGood Alaska MushingFacebookInstagram
Peter KaiserKaiser RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Aaron BurmeisterAlaskan Wildstyle RacingFacebook
Lara KittelsonSeavey's IdidarideWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Wally RobinsonCrooked Creek Kennel/Robinson RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
Bold notates past Iditarod Champion.
Edited Feb 27, 2024 to notate the changes to roster.

Who are YOU excited to see race to Nome? Predictions? Care to share who you have on your Fantasy Team? Comment below with all of your thoughts, cheers, fears, and jeers!



If you like what you see and want to support my addiction (I mean HOBBY) of following these races and stalking (I mean cheering on) the mushers, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that really goes to paying for my internet/web expenses).