ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Dallas Seavey was leading the Iditarod early Wednesday, in his quest to become the race’s greatest champion.
Seavey was the first musher to leave the ghost town of Ophir as mushers continue to jockey for position in the early part of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and lead changes are common.
Ophir is 352 miles (566 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile race. Seavey left there at 3:49 a.m. Wednesday with 12 dogs in harness. He had an 18-minute lead over the second-place musher, Brent Sass, who has 13 dogs remaining on his team.
Sass, the race’s 2012 Rookie of the Year, is looking for his first Iditarod title.
A musher must start the race with at least 12 dogs but no more than 14. Race rules require at least five dogs be on the team at the finish line.
Seavey, the defending champion, is tied with Rick Swenson with the most Iditarod titles, at five apiece. Swenson won his fifth title in 1991, and the now-71-year-old musher last ran the Iditarod in 2012.
Seavey earlier told The Associated Press that win or lose, he will likely take a break from the race after this year to spend time with his daughter.
Other mushers who have left Ophir include Ryan Redington, three-time champion Mitch Seavey and Hugh Neff.
Musher Aaron Burmeister picked up some homemade Alaska swag Wednesday when he was the first musher to reach McGrath, the checkpoint right before Ophir.
The prizes, made by McGrath residents, included a pair of musher mitts made of beaver fur and beaded moose hide by Loretta Maillelle and a beaver fur musher hat sewn by Lucy Miller.