RUBY, Alaska (AP) -- Norwegian Robert Sorlie was the first musher Wednesday to leave the Yukon River village of Ruby as he kept distance between himself and other teams in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Sorlie left Ruby at 5:32 p.m. after giving his team nearly six hours of rest. He said he also rested his dogs overnight on the trail for another three hours.
Ruby is 330 miles into the 1,100-mile race to Nome, and more than 100 miles from the previous checkpoint.
''It was a long trip to here, but it was slow speed, which is good for the dogs,'' Sorlie said, as he got ready to hit the trail again.
''Good luck!'' Bystanders called out as his team trotted eagerly down the trail.
''Those dogs looked good coming in and they look good going out,'' said volunteer veterinarian David Mononey of Melvourned, Australia.
The 45-year-old Sorlie is running in only his second Iditarod but he has a reputation as a winner. He is a three-time champion of Norway's premier long-distance sled dog race, the 1,000-kilometer Finnmarkslopet. Last year, he finished ninth in the Iditarod to post a new rookie record.
John Baker, third last year in his best career finish, remained in second place, but arrived at the Ruby checkpoint about four hours behind Sorlie after making the 115-mile run on the frozen Yukon River from Tanana.
While the race was so far working out well for Sorlie, Peter Bartlett, who was in 31st place, decided to scratch in Tanana because his dogs weren't running well.
Bartlett said he left the checkpoint Wednesday morning but returned after going about 25 miles up the Yukon River. There was something obviously wrong with the team, he said. Two of his veteran dogs were unable to keep running.
The crestfallen musher, who finished the Iditarod 26th as a rookie last year, said race veterinarians had checked the dogs and would evaluate them further after they were transported to Anchorage.
Bartlett suspects the dogs were suffering from a virus. They had not wanted to eat since the ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage on Saturday but had began eating again Wednesday.
Bartlett said concern for his dogs caused him to scratch.
''I feel horrible,'' he said, as he fed them patties of beef and tripe. ''My parents in Maine mortgaged their land so I could do this. I wanted to place in the top 25 to get the money back for them.
''But something is totally wrong with these dogs. They're usually such good eaters,'' he said.
Bartlett was the second musher to scratch. Rookie Lance Barve, running last, scratched in Manley. Sixty-two teams remain in the race.
Four-time Iditarod winner and defending champion Martin Buser moved into third position Wednesday evening, arriving at the Ruby checkpoint just four minutes behind Baker.
Three-time champion Jeff King slipped from third to fourth place.
Ramy Brooks, second last year, was in fifth place. Linwood Fiedler who was second in 2001 but scratched last year, had moved into sixth place. Charlie Boulding was seventh, followed by Rick Swenson, the race's only five-time winner.
Swenson was followed by Ken Anderson, 2000 Yukon Quest winner Aliy Zirkle, Jon Little and Ray Redington Jr., grandson of the race's founder.
Most of the other mushers were on the trail from Tanana to Ruby.
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