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Iditarod sled dog race kicks off this weekend

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2014 at 9:13 am •  Published: February 28, 2014

Seavey became the race's oldest musher last year at age 53.

"It's a new year, and I don't know if what happened last year makes much difference to what's going to happen this year, except I have a more recent winning team to work with, and most of those guys are returning," Seavey said.

He said he's taken his dogs to various parts of Alaska to give them experience in running in different conditions. Seavey, who also won the race in 2004, hopes that training "helps us with a more diverse foundation when race time comes."

His son, Dallas, won the race in 2012, becoming the Iditarod's youngest champion ever at age 25.

Dallas said an unknown in this year's race is the large number of Scandinavian mushers, including five Norwegians and one Swede.

"Those guys know how to run dogs," Dallas said. "And they may be new to the Iditarod, or have less Iditarod races under the belts, but they're not new to mushing.

"It's about dogmanship, and those guys know that game," he said.

Robert Sorlie, 56, of Hurdal, Norway, has been in the Iditarod four times and won twice, in 2003 and 2005. He's back after a six-year absence.

Also running separate teams are Allen Moore, who last month won his second consecutive Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, and his wife, Aily Zirkle, who finished second to both Seaveys in the last two years.

Scott Janssen, an Anchorage undertaker who is known as the Mushing Mortician, said he could name 28 people who easily could win this year's Iditarod.

"When I look at the front-runners, I want to be in the top 30," he said, but even that might be a daunting task.

One name will be missing from the starting field. Lance Mackey, a four-time champion, is sitting out this year due to health concerns and because he has young dogs.

Four mushers already have scratched, including Brent Sass of Eureka, Alaska. The 34-year-old Minnesota native suffered a concussion in the Yukon Quest when he fell off his sled and cracked his head on the ice about 100 miles from the finish in Whitehorse, Yukon.