KENAI - A full slate of mushers has signed up for the debut of the Sheep Mountain 150 sled dog race.
"I think it will be a good tuneup for mushers to use to prepare for more intense races later in the season," said race organizer Zack Steer.
At 150 miles long, the race, which will start at the Sheep Mountain Lodge on the Glenn Highway between Palmer and Glennallen in mid-December, could serve as a test for unproven dogs.
Steer, an experienced musher who placed second in the 2004 Yukon Quest, said he has used the race trail though the Talkeetna Mountains for his own training the past five years.
"It's a good mix of flat stretches and hills," he said.
Steer added that he is happy with the amount of interest in the inaugural race, which includes rookies and seasoned professionals.
"We have a full field of 30 teams, including two past Iditarod champions (Dean Osmar and Jeff King), and 10 more mushers on the waiting list," he said.
Lance Mackey of Kasilof said he's excited about competing in the new race.
"I've got four 11-dog teams at the moment, three of which are really competitive, so I'm looking forward to using the race to see which dogs will make the cut for the other races I'm planning on doing this season," he said.
Mackey is an Iditarod veteran and frequent front-runner in mid-distance races like the Knik 200 and the Tustumena 200.
The Sheep Mountain 150 is scheduled to start at the Sheep Mountain Lodge at noon Dec. 18. There will be three legs of approximately 50 miles with two mandatory layovers of five hours each separating them.