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KNIK - One record has already been set in next year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
For the first time, more than 100 mushers have signed up to run the race of more than a thousand miles from Anchorage to Nome. The official number was 107, but one applicant has withdrawn.
"We've never seen these kind of numbers," said Joanne Potts, Iditarod race director. "We've never hit 100 before, so this is very exciting."
Potts said 97 mushers signed up to run last year and 81 actually started the race.
"We had 103 signed up as of the Dec. 1 deadline, but we have received entry fees from three others who called to say their paperwork was on the way."
The entry fee is $1,850. It's likely a few more mushers will drop out by the time the race begins, Potts said, but she does not expect it to be many.
Almost half of the race applicants, 48, are rookies. Potts said 14 still must complete a qualifying race to be eligible, including Rachael Scdoris, a vision-impaired musher from Oregon who successfully lobbied to compete with special accommodations - guidance by a musher who will communicate trail conditions with a two-way radio.
About 70 of Iditarod applicants are Alaskans. Four are former Iditarod champions.
Lance Mackey said he was looking forward to driving his team to Nome but he did not know why so many people signed up.
"I've been trying to figure that out myself," Mackey said. "There's only 27 signed up for the Yukon Quest, so what gives?
"I think it may be something to do with the notoriety or the race and the size of the purse, but I really don't know why there's so many."
The purse for the Iditarod is higher this year. Last year the race paid $68,571 for first place. Potts said she was unable to state the exact amount of the purse this year.
Of the 106 mushers signed up, only about one-third are competitive mushers, Mackey said. Another third still are entered to gain experience and the rest are people looking for adventure, he said.
The 2004 race starts March 6 in Anchorage. The official restart will take place a day later in Wasilla.