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Past Iditarod champ donates $50,000 to increase this year's race purse

January 6, 2010 | 12:13 pm

Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Jeff King drives his team from the ceremonial start of the race in 2008.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has taken a beating. Not only have animal-welfare groups decried the annual event as cruel to its animal participants but the race budget, including the prize money going to winners, has been cut dramatically.

The budget for this year's race has been slashed, cut more than $500,000. The purse, which just two years ago was $925,000, would be no more than $525,000.

Enter Jeff King, a four-time race champion. On Monday, King donated $50,000 to the organization, the entire amount to be added to the prize money for the top race finishers.

"I'm not a rich man," King told the Anchorage Daily News. "But I've won a lot of money with the Iditarod. I'm hoping I can stimulate others -- even if it's just a few bucks."

King, who won the event in 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2006, earned $765,520 in Iditarod winnings. The $50,000 donation matches the amount King pocketed after his first Iditarod win.

"If you'd asked me then if I'd be willing to pay it back 25 years later, interest free, for opening doors it opened for me, I hope I would have said yes," King said. "It seemed like a huge amount of money at first ... but the race has given me more."

This year's 1,112-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race is scheduled to begin the first weekend in March and will be using the Northern Route, as is done in even-numbered years.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Jeff King drives his team from the ceremonial start of the race in 2008. Credit: Al Grillo / Associated Press

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