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.