02/01/2014 07:00 EST | Updated 04/03/2014 05:59 EDT

Yukon Quest sled dog race starts today in Fairbanks

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race starts this morning in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The mushers are beginning what is normally a 1,600 kilometre race to Whitehorse, but the course is more than 100 kilometres shorter than normal because of bad trail conditions.

Marie Belanger, Yukon Quest Canadian Executive Director, says the 18 mushers in this year's race are raring to go.

"They love meeting the public, but they can't wait to get on the runners and get out there," she said.

The front runners include lasy year's champion, Allen Moore and recent winner Hugh Neff.  But Belanger says a Whitehorse-area musher, who will be first out of the chute, may be a long shot.

"At the banquet, Normand Casavant drew bib number 1," she said.

"So he kind of made a nice insinuation that two years ago he got bib number 10 and placed 10th, and then last year he got bib number 7 and placed seventh. So getting bib number 1, he's going to aim for the top spot."

Casavant was the first Canadian musher across the finish line in last year's race.

The shortened course could cut almost a whole day off the winning time, putting the winner across the finish line just north of Whitehorse in an estimated eight days.

The race begins Saturday at 11 a.m. Alaska time.