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Defending Champion Leaves Iditarod Race Over Health Concerns

Sass scratched at the Eagle Island checkpoint, a statement from the Iditarod said. Eagle Island is about 600 miles (966 kilometers) into the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race.

“He didn’t feel he could care for his team due to current concerns with his periodontal health,” the statement said. The condition typically relates to gum disease.

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The Iditarod said all 11 dogs on Sass’ team were in good health.

Sass was in the lead when he arrived at the Eagle Island checkpoint late Friday night with an almost four-hour advantage over his nearest competitor, Jessie Holmes of Brushkana.

Holmes was the first musher to leave the Eagle Island checkpoint early Saturday morning. The 40-year-old Alabama native moved to Alaska in 2004, where he is a carpenter and appears on the National Geographic reality TV show “Life Below Zero,” about people who live in rural Alaska.

The winner is expected to mush down Nome’s Front Street, a block off the Bering Sea, to the finish line either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Before the competitive start to the race, mushers greeted fans on March 4 during a ceremonial start in downtown anchorage and drive auction winners riding in their sleds for an 11-mile jaunt through the streets of the state’s largest city.

Since then, two mushers including Sass have withdrawn.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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