They did pretty well for a while. And then they were banned from the race.
It all started when Alaskan John Suter bought three standard Poodles in 1976 and found they loved running in the snow. Instead of just enjoying sledding with his dogs (and possibly he was hoping for a movie deal), he became serious about being a Poodle musher and turning his Poodles into racing sled dogs.
He brought in experienced sled dogs and mushers to teach the Poodles who (of course) learned very quickly. After spending thousands of dollars of his own money, he appealed to Poodle owners to help finance his plan. His main purpose he said was to dispel the “wimpy image” of Poodles.
Poodle owners who for the most part love the social graces and strong verbal skills of the breed were not concerned with their “image.” Having them compete in an activity foreign to their natural breeding seemed pretty senseless. So there was not an outpouring of support.
Suter’s efforts did bring publicity to the Iditarod. But it was not the kind of publicity that some traditionalists wanted.
Eventually, however, Poodles did well in the marathon race where even finishing is an accomplishment.
In 1988, with a part-Poodle team, Suter placed 38th out of 52 starters in the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He subsequently ran the Iditarod with an all-Poodle team; his team entered and finished the race in 1989, 1990, and 1991. Source
This feat combined with the wins of Susan Butcher in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990 made the unofficial slogan, ”Alaska, where women win the Iditarod and men mush Poodles,” very popular.
As the Poodles continued to draw attention, murmurings from the other mushers began quietly and got louder, whether they were concerned for the Poodles’ well being or for some other reason. No one doubted they had the heart to race. The question was did the breed have an unfair disadvantage.
After one Poodle was frozen to the ground while a TV crew was filming (the dog was freed quickly with no ill effects), it was determined that Poodle paws and their coats, which lack an undercoat for warmth, were not suited for competition in the harsh northern climate.
For whatever reason, all dogs except Northern Breeds are now banned from running the Iditarod.
Someone (no doubt a Poodle person) suggested in a forum that mushers didn’t want Poodles kicking Husky butt.