GLENNALLEN (AP) -- Halfway through the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race, Martin Buser of Big Lake was leading the race Sunday, just 10 minutes ahead of DeeDee Jonrowe, last year's winner.
Buser, a three-time winner of the Iditarod Trial Sled Dog Race, arrived at the Meier's Lake checkpoint at 5:47 a.m. Jonrowe, a veteran Iditarod racer from Willow, arrived at 5:57 a.m., followed by Jon Little of Kasilof at 6:03 a.m. and Lynda Plettner of Willow at 7:08 a.m.
Many of the leading racers were choosing to satisfy a mandatory 8-hour layover at the checkpoint 155 miles from the start in Glennallen.
The 300-mile race, an Iditarod Trial Sled Dog Race qualifier used by many mushers to tune up their teams for the big race in early March, takes mushers from Glennallen to Chistochina to Summit Lake to Lake Louise and back to Glennallen. The first-place finisher will get $12,000.
Thirty six teams began the race Saturday. Chad Nordlum of Anchorage and Stacy Tostenson of Glennallen scratched. The first finishers are expected back at Glennallen sometime Monday afternoon.
Fairbanks musher David Monson had the early lead in the race.
''On hard trail, I travel fast,'' the 49-year-old musher said.
After leaving Glennallen at about 10 a.m. Saturday, Monson passed eight teams on his way to Chistochina where mushers took their first mandatory break.
Monson, the 1988 Yukon Quest champion, arrived in Chistochina at 3:17 p.m., tying with two-time Quest champion Charlie Boulding, of Manley, for the first to arrive at the checkpoint. Monson was the 10th musher to leave Glennallen.
Monson passed Jonrowe, who at that time was seventh arriving in Chistochina.
''My team won't look as strong in this race as they did last year,'' she said, after curling up with a heater in the Chistochina Hall.
''I feel like I peaked my team at this race last year, which was great for this race but they never looked the same for the Iditarod.''
Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers, the 2000 Yukon Quest champion, is running a team that belonged to her former kennel partner, Jerry Louden, who died in a car accident last year. She was in 10th place Sunday.
''My young dogs are a little nervous. I'm going to be very conservative from here on out.''
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