40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins in Alaska

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Nicolas Petit from Girdwood, Alaska, is the early leader in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The 32-year-old native of Normandy was the first musher to reach the Finger Lake checkpoint, pulling in just before 5 a.m. Monday. The checkpoint is about 100 miles into the race.

The nearly thousand mile sled dog race began Sunday for 66 mushers and their dog teams. The winner is expected in the old gold rush town of Nome on Alaska's western coast early next week.

The race is still bunched up, with at least 57 other mushers en route to Finger Lake from the previous checkpoint, Skwentna. Defending champion John Baker is in fifth place, just ahead of Hugh Neff, the winner of this year's Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.