FAIRBANKS - The 2004 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race picked up 11 contenders Wednesday, the first day to enter the 21st annual test of dog and man between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
The 1,026-mile race starts Feb. 14 in Fairbanks.
Terry Asbury of Healy was the first in line, standing in rain until the Quest office opened at 10 a.m. to pay $1,250 in fees. Asbury, considered a veteran because he has made it to the race's midway point in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, wants to set his snowhook at the Whitehorse finish line after years of chasing a dream.
In 1997, Asbury scratched because of sick dogs. In 2002, he scratched after breaking ribs. In February, he withdrew before the race started because of a family illness that sent him Outside. He's looking to break that trend of bad luck.
"I need to finish someday," Asbury told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
"Before I sent it in by mail and this time I thought maybe I'll change my luck and go in person," Asbury said.
Three veterans and seven rookies also signed up on July 2, the first day teams could enter the race.
The veterans are Catherine Pinard, 28, of Whitehorse; Tom Benson, 39, of Dubois, Wyo.; and Tony Blanford, 44, of Two Rivers.
The rookies are 2003 Copper Basin champion and Iditarod veteran Zack Steer, 30, of Palmer; two-time Quest 250 defending champion Eric Butcher, 34, of Two Rivers; Marcel Marin, 30, of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; Michelle Phillips, 45, of Tagish, Yukon Territory; Sebastian Schnuelle, 33, of Whitehorse; Kevin Lupo, 25, of Two Rivers; and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner city editor Rod Boyce, 42, of Two Rivers.
Three race veteran mushers registered on July 3 - David Dalton, Kelley Griffin and Peter Ledwidge - but their hometowns weren't listed on the race's Web site. That brought the race's number of registered mushers to 14.
To encourage competitors to sign up on the first day, the Yukon Quest set up a drawing of first-day entrants on July 10. The winner receives the $1,250 in entry and administrative fees back and a $500 gift certificate for dog food.
Last year Juneau musher Deborah Bicknell started the race, but scratched before reaching the finish line. Bicknell, who won 2000 race's Red Lantern Award as the event's last finisher, hasn't said if she plans to sign up for the race this year. Bicknell, a 58-year-old grandmother with two reconstructed knees, has started the race three times, but only finished it once.
When she scratched last year, Bicknell said she planned to concentrate on the shorter, mid-distance races such as the Copper Basin 300 in Glennallen and the Percy de Wolf Memorial Mail Run in Dawson City, Yukon Territory.