Alaskan Brent Sass was the first Yukon Quest musher into Dawson City, arriving a few minutes after 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

This is his eighth straight Quest and he's moved up the leader board in most of those races. He finished third last year.

Sass's goal this year is to win, so he was thrilled to be the first into the halfway point.

"It's a big, big step forward for us," he said. "I came into this race with a dog team I felt we could do exactly what we did. I ran the exact schedule I said I was going to do into here and that's pretty awesome."

Allen Moore of Alaska and last year's Quest champion was the second musher into Dawson at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. Another former winner, Hugh Neff, was the third team in at 3 a.m.

Sass said he spent much of the day looking back to see if Moore was catching up to him.

"The whole frickin' way — 'Where is he? Is he near?'" said Sass. "My neck is really sore, let's just put it that way.

"I thought for sure he was going to catch us, but he didn't. I never saw a headlamp. I thought he was maybe just leaving his headlamp off and was going to flick it on right when he came up on me. Didn't happen. We're here and I'm very happy and very, very proud of my dog team."

Moore said the real race is about to begin as the teams rest and get ready for the second half from Dawson to Whitehorse.

"I've just been resting a lot more than he has, in that maybe he's run his dogs a little bit too hard and I can catch up in the end," he said. "We'll see if that comes true or not. Hopefully we'll let the beast go in the second half. Make it exciting again."

The Dawson City checkpoint has a mandatory 36-hour rest period. Sass can leave Dawson City Thursday at 11 a.m.

Brian Wilmshurst, the sole Yukoner remaining in the race, is in 14th place. He left the Slaven's roadhouse checkpoint Tuesday night and is heading to Eagle.

The finish line of the 1,600 kilometre dog sled race will be at Takhini Hot Springs this year, 30 kilometres outside Whitehorse, due to poor snow conditions.