Cody’s Wish: The Heartfelt Story Thoroughbred Racing Needed

November 30, 2022

Cody’s Wish following his magical Breeders’ Cup triumph (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

By Lucas Sigurdson

As we wrap up the season and look forward to next year, I can’t help but think: 2022 has been the year of the feel-good story in thoroughbred racing. There have been many exciting moments, inspiring viewers everywhere. Lots of folks – whether novice fans or dedicated racing enthusiasts – may pinpoint May 7, 2022, with 80-1 Rich Strike’s improbable run for glory in the Kentucky Derby, as their most exciting story. The feel-good stories seemingly haven’t stopped pouring in since, though, perhaps none as remarkably beautiful as that of Cody’s Wish. Grab your tissues for this one.

The story of Cody’s Wish begins at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Kentucky. The Make-A-Wish Foundation, in partnership with Keeneland Race Course, set 12-year old Cody Dorman and his family up with a visit to the decorated farm back in 2018. Born with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, Cody Dorman epitomizes strength, bravery, and the will to never give up. Cody’s been put through upwards of 50 medical operations; he is unable to walk or speak, and uses an electronic tablet to communicate. Little did he or his family know what would transpire that afternoon at Gainsborough Farm. His courageous story would be taking on a whole new meaning, capturing the hearts of many in the process.

While at the farm, Cody and his family were introduced to an unnamed six-month-old foal, sired by Curlin out of the Tapit mare Dance Card. This introduction – the foal simply laying his head on Cody’s lap – would spark an indescribably special connection between he and this quiet weanling. Truly an inseparable bond. 

Fittingly named Cody’s Wish following that first encounter, the colt did not race at age 2. To kick off his age 3 season, he would finish third in each of his first three starts in the summer of 2021. The always-defiant Cody Dorman just knew the wins would come once he were able to be in attendance. Fast forward to October 2, 2021, at Churchill Downs. With Cody Dorman and family there to witness, 3-year-old Cody’s Wish would take down a 1-mile, maiden special weight race for his first career victory. The win would be the start of a three-race winning streak to close out the 2021 season. Cody’s Wish was well on his way to stardom – with his biggest fan right there every step of the way.

Returning from a 3 ½ -month layoff, Cody’s Wish made his 4-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes on March 12, 2022, at Tampa Bay Downs, finishing second by a neck to Scalding. May 7, 2022 would be a different story, though. Step aside, Rich Strike. Cody’s Wish would claim his first stakes victory in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes at Belmont Park, and it was all glory from there. Cody’s Wish would prove to be a top-level stakes performer, claiming the Hanshin Cup at Churchill Downs in July and then the Forego at Saratoga in August – his first G1 victory – in a stunning upset over Jackie’s Warrior.

In an almost ritualistic fashion, Cody Dorman shared three words through his tablet device leading up to the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, the next task at hand: “he will win.” 

Need I say more? Whether you happened to be at Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup Saturday or not, you’ve probably watched the replay – and the Dorman family’s cheerful, tearful response – numerous times. Amongst the thousands of spectators, there couldn’t have been a dry eye on Keeneland’s grounds. Larry Collmus’ call as Cody’s Wish crossed the finish line first – oh, the wish has come true…that one’s for you Cody – will be remembered for years to come. 

There are some pretty powerful life lessons we could all take from Cody Dorman, now 16, led by the simple premise that you should never give up. Even when the odds appear to be stacked against you, there’s nothing a strong heart cannot overcome. 2022 has brought us racing fans many exciting moments – from Rich Strike’s run for glory in the Kentucky Derby to Flightline’s historic curtain call in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – along with many tears, thanks to heartfelt stories such as those of Cody’s Wish or Tyler’s Tribe.

The triumphant journey of Cody’s Wish – culminating in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – cannot be equated to anything short of magic. Just, magic. It’s everything that’s grand about thoroughbred racing, and, well, everything that’s grand about life. In a way, it’s the story we all needed to hear. The sport’s headlines, often taken over by scandal or scrutiny, were suddenly absorbed by this improbable journey. A journey led by an unwavering spirit, set out to defy any obstacle. 

My gratitude goes out to Cody Dorman and his family, for having shared a journey of such hope and determination. There’s a lesson for all of us found within Cody’s sheer bravery, and, not to mention, within his skill of picking out one heck of a racehorse. Cody’s Wish has won six of seven races since breaking his maiden, and will stay in training ahead of his age 5 campaign next year. I sure can’t wait to cheer him on once again. 

Contributing Authors

Lucas Sigurdson

Lucas Sigurdson

Lucas Sigurdson first discovered his love for thoroughbred racing as a young kid, at the local harness track with his grandfather. While his childhood dreams...

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