BEND, Ore. (AP) -- A new sled dog race in Oregon that started Monday will bring the sport to people who have barely heard of Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, said Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985.
''Our biggest race is the Iditarod,'' Riddles, 45, said of the 1,100-mile race that takes place every March in Alaska. ''But it's inaccessible to most people. It's good for the sport to come to major population centers.''
Riddles is serving as race marshal for the inaugural Oregon World Cup Atta Boy 300 Race for Vision, founded by longtime Bend musher Jerry Scdoris.
Scdoris' 16-year-old daughter Rachel, who is legally blind, was racing in the event and acting as its spokeswoman.
The eight-stage race started Monday at Mount Hood and runs through Bend, Sisters, Prineville, Sunriver and La Pine before finishing at Mount Bachelor on Jan. 13.
The race offers a purse of $50,000. It's the first leg of a three-race series that also includes the Wyoming 500 Stage Stop in February.
More than 30 professional mushers were on hand Sunday for the new race's opening ceremonies.
Tim White, a 53-year-old Yale graduate who spurned the conventional opportunities his Ivy League education afforded him and became a professional sled dog racer, said the sport is expanding.
''There's about 10,000 sled dog racers in the U.S. and 60,000 to 70,000 worldwide,'' said White, who competed in the second Iditarod in 1974 and now serves as vice president of the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports.
Scott Smith, a 32-year-old native of Maine now living in Dubois, Wyo., is one of the neophytes.
He picked up sled dog racing two years ago after breeding sled dogs and running sled tours in Wyoming for six years.
Smith hopes to compete in the Iditarod this year, but with so many top mushers in the Atta Boy, he was trying to keep his goals realistic.
''I just hope to stick in the middle of the pack,'' he said. ''The most important thing is to just go out and have a good time.''
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