77 mushers sign up for 2017 Iditarod

Entries have closed for the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and 77 mushers have put down their money to race 1,000 miles to Nome.

That would be a slightly smaller field than this year when 85 mushers started, the third largest field ever. The top 10 mushers of 2016 have all signed up for the upcoming race — including the seemingly unstoppable Dallas Seavey, who has won the last three Iditarods plus the 2012 race.

If Seavey, 29 of Willow, wins the 2017 race, he will tie Rick Swenson as the race's winningest musher. Swenson, of Two Rivers, won in 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1991 but has not run the Iditarod since 2012.

The other four-time winners in the 2017 field are 58-year-old Martin Buser of Big Lake and 61-year-old Jeff King of Denali Park. Buser's last Iditarod win was in 2002, while King's was in 2006.

Iditarod chief executive Stan Hooley said in an email Friday that he was pleased with this year's field of mushers.

"The field in the 45th running looks to be a great mix of ultra-competitive front runners, those looking to move up, and of course, a great rookie class eager to make their mark," Hooley said.

There are 19 rookies signed up for the 2017 race and 13 mushers who listed their hometown as somewhere outside the United States. There are 19 women and 58 men.

Aliy Zirkle, of Two Rivers, is signed up to race this year after placing third in 2016 and after three consecutive second-place finishes in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Ramey Smyth, of Willow, has returned to the race after taking two years off. Smyth placed third in the 2012 Iditarod and second the year before.

Some additional mushers could be added to the lineup until Feb. 16, but they'll have to pay a $4,000 late fee for submitting their entry after the Dec. 1 deadline. That fee is on top of the $4,000 entry fee, and the $4,000 entry fee is already $1,000 — or 33 percent — more than it was for the 2016 race.

The 2017 Iditarod ceremonial start is scheduled for Saturday, March 4, in Anchorage with a restart in Willow the following day.