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40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets under way in Alaska

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Posted: Sunday, March 4, 2012 3:06 pm | Updated: 6:08 am, Wed Jan 30, 2013.

Update 12:30 p.m.: • Redington Jr., Neff first into Rainy Pass

WILLOW, Alaska - Sixty-six mushers began their quest to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race with the competition's official start Sunday in Willow.

The mushers and their dog teams will spend about the next eight days traveling across nearly a thousand miles of Alaska wilderness in a sled, all trying to be the first musher to reach the old gold rush town of Nome.

The grandsons of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race's co-founder Joe Redington were the first and last mushers on the trail.

Ray Redington Jr. picked the first spot during the musher's draw. The 36-year-old musher is competing in his 11th Iditarod and finished in 7th place last year. He said he hopes to do even better this year.

Ray Redington said this year's competition is "tough, very tough," with the racing teams becoming more professional and serious about winning.

"They're getting better. So am I," he said Sunday.

His younger brother, 29-year-old Ryan Redington, is competing in his 8th race but had to wait to get on the trail after picking the last spot.

There are six former champions in the race, including last year's winner, 49-year-old John Baker of Kotzebue.

Baker said that after winning last year's race, he considered retiring as an Iditarod musher. But then he realized there were too many people counting on him to run again.

When he isn't training for the Iditarod, Baker spends his time traveling to Alaska villages and giving Native children a message: Work hard, follow your dreams, and you can do it.

If he had decided not to run this year, Baker said, "it would kind of be like quitting people."

Also in the race is Lance Mackey, whose string of four consecutive wins was ended by Baker in 2011.

Mackey admitted feeling deeply disappointed by his finish in last year's race, particularly after coming off four straight wins. He has said he won't let himself feel that way again, no matter what the outcome.

But Mackey also said his team this year is ready to race, and he's in it to win it.

"This team is as good as any team here," he said.

Also in the field is Hugh Neff, who won last month's Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Organizers are now saying the northern Iditarod route between Willow and Nome taken on even years is actually 975 miles, not as long as the 1,150 miles quoted in the past. However, some mushers believe the new estimate is too low and that the race is at least 1,000 miles.

Organizers cited various reasons for the mileage tweak, including the move of the competitive start north from Wasilla to Willow.

On Saturday, they added one mile back in. Last month, organizers decided to remove the Happy River Steps, a dangerous set of switchbacks between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints. However, officials recently said the alternate route, a winter road created by a mineral exploration company, was no longer a better option because of snow, and they went back to the Happy River Steps route.

The total purse is $550,000 for the first 30 finishers, with the winner receiving $50,400 and a new truck. A record purse of $875,000 was handed out in 2008. In past years, the winner's take was as high as $69,000.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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2014 Iditarod Start Order

Bib No. 1 is honorary

2) Curt Perano, Central Otago, New Zealand

3) Paige Drobny, Fairbanks, Alaska

4) Gus Guenther, Clam Gulch, Alaska

5) Dan Kaduce, Chatanika, Alaska

6) Mitch Seavey, Seward, Alaska

7) Michael Williams, Jr., Akiak, Alaska

8) Yvonne DabAlaskak, Oslo, Norway

9) Newton Marshall, St. Anne, Jamaica

10) Aliy Zirkle, Two Rivers, Alaska

11) Richie Diehl, Aniak, Alaska

12) Tommy Jordbrudal, Longyearbyen, Norway

13) Kelly Maixner, Big Lake, Alaska

14) Dallas Seavey, Willow, Alaska

15) Michelle Phillips, Tagish, Yukon, Canada

16) DeeDee Jonrowe, Willow, Alaska

17) Jeff King, Denali, Alaska

18) Monica Zappa, Kasilof, Alaska

19) Allen Moore, Two Rivers, Alaska

20) Scott Janssen, Anchorage, Alaska

21) Christian Turner, Karratha, WA, Australia

22) Robert Sorlie, Hurdal, Norway

23) Aaron Burmeister, Nome, Alaska

24) Ellen Halverson, Wasilla, Alaska

25) Nathan Schroeder, Chisholm, MN

26) Charley Bejna, Addison, IL

27) Jessie Royer, Darby, MT

28) Cim Smyth, Big Lake, Alaska

29) Nicolas Petit, Girdwood, Alaska

30) Rick Casillo, Willow, Alaska

31) Lev Shvarts, Willow, Alaska

32) Linwood Fiedler, Willow, Alaska

33) Karin Hendrickson, Wasilla, Alaska

34) Justin Savidis, Willow, Alaska

35) Paul Gebhardt, Kasilof, Alaska

36) Martin Buser, Big Lake, Alaska

37) Jake Berkowitz, Big Lake, Alaska

38) Jim Lanier, Chugiak, Alaska

39) Jason Mackey, Wasilla, Alaska

40) Jan Steves, Edmonds, WA

41) Lisbet Norris, Willow, Alaska

42) Cindy Gallea, Wykoff, MN

43) Peter Kaiser, Bethel, Alaska

44) Mats Pettersson, Kiruna, Sweden

45) John Dixon, Fairbanks, Alaska

46) Cindy Abbott, Irvine, CA

47) Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Mo i Rana, Norway

48) Travis Beals, Seward, Alaska

49) Ramey Smyth, Willow, Alaska

50) Marcelle Fressineau, Whitehorse, YT, Canada

51) Ray Redington, Jr., Wasilla, Alaska

52) Anna Berington, Kasilof, Alaska

53) John BAlaskaer, Kotzebue, Alaska

54) Ralph Johannessen, Dagali, Norway

55) Elliot Anderson, Big Lake, Alaska

56) Kristy Berington, Kasilof, Alaska

57) Matt Failor, Willow, Alaska

58) Hans Gatt, Whitehorse, YT, Canada

59) Karen Ramstead, Perryvale, AB, Canada

60) Alex Buetow, Fairbanks, Alaska

61) Hugh Neff, Tok, Alaska

62) Danny Seavey, Seward, Alaska

63) Katherine Keith, Kotzebue, Alaska

64) Robert Bundtzen, Anchorage, Alaska

65) Ken Anderson, Fairbanks, Alaska

66) Mike Ellis, Two Rivers, Alaska

67) Wade Marrs, Wasilla, Alaska

68) Mike Santos, Cantwell, Alaska

69) Abbie West, Two Rivers, Alaska

70) Sonny Lindner, Two Rivers, Alaska

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