FAIRBANKS - Three-time Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race champion Hans Gatt has scratched in the middle of this year's race.
Citing strategic reasons, Gatt scratched Thursday at Dawson City, Yukon, 500 miles into the race from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Fairbanks.
Race officials say Gatt wants to refocus his efforts on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which has a ceremonial start March 7 in Anchorage.
In a statement released by the Yukon Quest, Gatt says he thinks his dog team can win the Iditarod, and he wants to save them for that.
Gatt, of Whitehorse, won the race from 2002-2004.
Jon Little, William Kleedehn and Hugh Neff were the first mushers out of Dawson City Thursday en route to the next checkpoint, in Eagle, Alaska.