Here are five things to know for Sunday on Day 8 of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race: 

1. Race Outlook: Mushers, dog teams race to the coast 

As of Saturday night the top four mushers in the 2019 Iditarod were (clockwise from top left) Peter Kaiser, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Jessie Royer and Nicolas Petit.

Some years, the eventual Iditarod winner comes into focus sooner than in others.

In 2018, Nic Petit and Joar Leifseth Ulsom were running a two-man race for Nome by the time they reached Unalakleet.

This year, the field is wider, with several top contenders running close to one another. 

Weather will likely be the next factor to influence progress among leaders. Teams that passed through a drizzling, warm Anvik on Friday are headed toward 40 mph winds on the coast.

Petit was the first to leave Kaltag Saturday night. 


2. Iditarod Forecast: Wind, snow continue along the trail

Nearly three-quarters of the trail has been completed by mushers in the 2019 Iditarod and no significant weather impacts have been of concern.

However, as the mushers continue their journey to Nome, the threat for windy conditions and snow will increase the remainder of the race.

For the last few days, a winter weather advisory has been in place across the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, as a series of storm systems have been tracking in from the southeast. That will still be the case heading through today, with the advisory expected to expire by noon. Even with that being the case, snow will still be in the forecast for the remainder of the trail.


3. Two mushers scratch, narrowing field to 49 

Veteran mushers Emily Maxwell (left) and Marcelle Fressineau (right) both scratched at the Iditarod checkpoint around noon on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Emily Maxwell, bib No. 18, and Marcelle Fressineau, bib No. 27, scratched Saturday at the halfway mark of the race.

According to a release from the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC), a welfare check was issued by "Maxwell engaging her emergency locator transmitter." After getting supplies delivered to their location, the teams were then able to make it to the Iditarod checkpoint, where they scratched upon arrival. 

Only one other musher has scratched. Shaynee Traska ended her race at the Nikolai checkpoint with 10 dogs in harness. 


4. Don't let the title fool you, this Iditarod rookie is a veteran musher 

It would be accurate to call Ed Hopkins a rookie. At 54, technically he is, but in name only. 

Hopkins has a chance to be Iditarod's rookie of the year. And as he gets to potentially harsher weather towards the coast, he thinks his team will be fine. 


5. Dog of the Day 

Kristy is a three-time Iditarod finisher who led Nic Petit's team to a third place finish in the 2017.  According to his website, he named her after Kristy Berington, another musher racing in the 2019 Iditarod. 

Nic Petit carries his dog, Kristy, to the dog drop area at the Anvik checkpoint. (Photo Courtesy: Dave Poyzer)

She ran 512 miles with Petit during this year's race, but did not continue with the team past Anvik due to a sore back leg. 

The term "returned dog" now replaces "dropped dog" in race vocabulary. A spokesperson for the race said the Iditarod changed it in 2019 because of the potentially negative connotation. It also more accurately explains that the dogs are returned home to their kennels.

Dogs like Kristy that mushers choose to return at checkpoints, with the exception of Anchorage, Willow and Nome, will be transported back by the ITC.  

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