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BC-US--Iditarod, US

March 1, 2019
Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race kicks off this weekend.

The event begins Saturday with a short, fan-friendly run in Anchorage, the state’s largest city.

The competitive portion of the race starts Sunday in the small community of Willow, north of Anchorage.

The 52-team field includes defending champion Joar Ulsom of Norway, three four-time winners and a three-time champion.

The expected top prize is $50,000, the same amount as last year but more than $20,000 below the 2017 prize. The total purse is again $500,000 — about $250,000 below the 2017 purse.

This year’s race comes on the heels of two difficult years for organizers that included a dog-doping scandal, the loss of big-name sponsors and escalating pressure from animal activists over multiple dog deaths over the years.