FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Organizers of the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race have boosted the race purse and made changes that they hope will make it one of the most popular mid-distance races in the state.
New sponsors have helped boost the race purse to more than $50,000 - double last year's total purse. The winner will take home $12,000.
''This is a big jump up (from last year),'' race organizer Kirk Wilson said.
The race, which is a qualifier for the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, begins Saturday in Glennallen. Fifty mushers had signed up as of late Wednesday. Registration closes Friday.
In addition to the bigger purse, the course has been rerouted so the last 15 miles will be run along a highway, a move aimed at making the event more spectator-friendly, Wilson said.
The pre-race meeting, a race day pancake breakfast and the awards ceremony after the finish have been moved to the Glennallen High School gymnasium in an effort to get more community involvement, according to Wilson.
This year's format features a mandatory 8-hour layover and two more mandatory 6-hour layovers to ensure the dogs are well-rested and healthy when they cross the finish line.
Last year's race was the subject of some controversy after a Washington state man was caught on Alyeska Pipeline Company surveilance tape beating his lead dog. Allegations that dogs were being run too hard also plagued the race.
''We believe people will have a real hard time stressing their dogs because they'll have to take these layovers,'' Wilson said. ''So there's basically six hours of rest every 100 miles. A lot of mushers told us two or three hours is not enough.''
Wilson said four to six inches of new snow this week should also grease the trails. ''The trails are looking really good.''
Another new aspect of this year's race matches mushers with host families. If mushers become friends with the families, they're more likely to come back and race again, Wilson said.
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