Fan favorite Aliy Zirkle leads Iditarod at halfway point

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              FILE - In this March 15, 2016 file photo, Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team to the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. The veteran musher is leading in Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. She is seeking to become the first woman to win in nearly three decades. She was first to leave the Ophir checkpoint Wednesday, March 6, 2019, 432 miles into the race. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Frenchman Nicolas Petit is back in the lead in Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Petit had earlier led the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) race and retook the top spot Thursday. He was first to leave the checkpoint at the ghost town of Iditarod, the halfway point of this year’s race.

He left with all 14 of his dogs.

In second place is Aliy (AL’-ee) Zirkle. The three-time second-place finisher was in the lead earlier Thursday, when she was first to reach the Iditarod checkpoint.

For that feat, she picks up some swag. She can decide between $3,000 in gold nuggets or a top-end cellphone with free service for a year.

In third place is defending champion Joar Ulsom of Norway.