Brent Sass

Alaskan musher Brent Sass was leading the 2014 race when he was concussed and withdrew. (CBC)

Twenty-one mushers signed up for the 2015 running of the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race on Saturday.

Laurie Parris, the executive director in the Whitehorse office of the Quest, said that's the most sign-ups on the first day of registration in recent memory. Fourteen racers signed up on opening day last year and only 18 actually competed in the 2014 Quest.

Parris said on Saturday the registration opened simultaneously in Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska.

"I think it's been a really positive day all around.  There's been a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm from the mushers themselves," she said.

Whitehorse resident Rob Cooke was the first musher to hand in the paperwork. Last year's winner, Alaskan Allen Moore, was second.

Parris said a purse of more than $127,110 U.S. and some rule changes have generated a lot of excitement.

The Quest is reducing the mandatory 36 hour rest in Dawson City to 24 hours. That frees up 12 hours to create new mandatory rest stops at other checkpoints.

Parris said that means mushers will have to come up with new race strategies and some mushers want to try it out to see how it affects the running of the race.

There's a substantial increase increase in Yukon mushers. They include veterans Cooke, Ed Hopkins, Brian Wilmshurst and Normand Casavant. The Yukon rookies are Tamra Reynolds, Magnus Feren Kalteneors and Olaf Thurau.

Alaskan Brent Sass also signed up. Bass was leading the 2014 race when he crashed on the trail between Carmacks and Braeburn Lodge. He suffered a concussion and withdrew.

The 2015 Yukon Quest gets underway in Whitehorse on Feb. 7. The 1,600 kilometre race will run from Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

The Yukon Quest 300 also had a large field of entrants on the opening day of registration. Twenty-two mushers are signed up for the 300 mile race from Whitehorse to Pelly Crossing, Yukon.