ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held its ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska.
This year's field of 57 mushers is the second-smallest in the past two decades.
Interest in the world’s most famous sled dog race has waned in recent years, partly because of smaller cash prizes.
Animal rights activists also have stepped up pressure on sponsors to drop their support.
Now, Iditarod officials are looking to breathe new life into the competition, joining a global sled-dog racing series that features a GPS tracking platform for fans.
They are also adding a betting element for the first time this year, and they plan to create a fantasy application for future races.
The race began Sunday in Willow, Alaska.
Defending champion Pete Kaiser held the lead at the first checkpoint, Skwentna. He held a lead of one hour and 24 minutes over Richie Diehl.