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Knik 200 becomes latest sled-dog race to bite the dust

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Melting, mushy snow conspired Tuesday to force the cancellation of another early-season sled-dog race in southcentral Alaska. 

Organizers of the Knik 200 Joe Redington Sr. Memorial Sled Race said they’d reached the “sad conclusion that the risk factors for the dogs, mushers, checkers, fans and all concerned are too high for us to proceed.”

The scrubbing of the Knik 200, which was scheduled to start Saturday, follows the cancellation of the Sheep Mountain 150 last month as limited snow cover and unseasonably warm temperatures have delivered mushers a double whammy. The next big middle-distance races are the Copper Basin 300, due to begin Jan. 12 in Glennallen; the Kusko 300 on Jan. 18 in Bethel; and the Tustumena 200 starting Feb. 2 on the Kenai Peninsula.

The Kusko, the world’s richest middle-distance race, offers a record purse of $110,000 -- including $22,000 for the winner -- and typically draws a star-studded field to western Alaska.  This year, a deep and talented field of 22 has signed up, including an array of former Iditarod and Kusko champions.

The Knik 200, on the other hand, rarely attracted a pack of big names, but it was a good early-season test for many area mushers, some of whom were seeking an Iditarod qualifying race.

“The Knik races are entirely volunteer driven, and many, many hours have already been invested by those behind the scenes as well as the mushers and dog teams and so this decision is a hard one to make,” according to the Knik race committee.