The winner of last year's Yukon Quest sled dog race is leading the pack early in this year's race.

Hugh Neff arrived at the Stepping Stone hospitality spot at 6:30 this morning.

He took the mandatory layover in Carmacks, and has not dropped any dogs.

Four-time Quest champion Lance Mackey dropped four dogs in Carmacks. He's in 12th position.

The top four standings are Neff, followed by Allen Moore, Jake Berkowitz and then Brent Sass.

The first mushers into Dawson City are expected tomorrow.

Trail modified, shortened for safety

The trail for the Yukon Quest sled dog race will be a bit shorter than in past years.

Quest officials are re-routing the trail between Dawson City and Eagle, Alaska.

That means mushers will not be going over American Summit.

Race officials say the decision is based on reports of trailbreakers who say the trail over the summit is impassable in several areas.

Some mushers welcome the news, but Brent Sass says it's always been a part of the trail he's excelled at.

"You know I trust the judgment of the trailbreakers if they can't put a trail in then. I've been up there in some pretty crazy situations so I know how bad it can get and if they're saying we can't make it over the top, then we probably can't make it over the top." said Sass.

The trail will proceed directly down the Yukon River from Dawson to Eagle. That reduces the race distance by approximately 80 kilometres.