The life-changing bond between Cody Dorman and Breeders’ Cup Hopeful Cody’s Wish

There can be no more inspiring story on the road to the 2022 Breeders’ Cup World Championships than the one involving Cody’s Wish and its namesake, Cody Dorman.

Life has been an uphill struggle for 16-year-old Dorman since he was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a rare genetic condition affecting many parts of the body. He has frequent seizures. He is unable to walk or speak, relying on a tablet to communicate. His father, Kelly, estimates his son has had between 40 and 50 surgeries, including open-heart surgery.

Perhaps nothing has helped Dorman more than his interaction with Cody’s Wish since the 4-year-old Breeders’ Cup contender was a colt at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Ky.

It all started when the brave teenager and his family visited the farm as part of Keeneland Racecourse’s association with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Since foals tend to get nervous about anything they’ve never seen before, such as a wheelchair, farm manager Danny Mulvihill was worried about which foal they might be bringing in for meet Dorman. He settled on an unnamed son of Curlin, two-time Horse of the Year, a Godolphin-bred horse.

“He was a nice, calm, laid-back colt,” Mulvihill recalled. “It was very important from my point of view to see if we could have a colt close to Cody, knowing that he was in a wheelchair.”

The colt looked at the boy and the wheelchair and started to move closer until he was able to sniff around a bit. Then he rested his head on his knees. Pure happiness. In that moment, all was well in Cody’s world.

“It was one of those magical moments,” said Mary Bourne, the office manager who later named the colt Cody’s Wish.

Says Mulvihill: “He’s a colt who knew almost by intuition what we wanted him to do.”

It was the start of a connection so powerful it defies explanation. “There’s a higher power involved in this,” Kelly said. “It’s quite special.”

Cody has maintained what his father describes as a “no-give-up mentality” through most of his ordeals. He, however, fell into a depression after a series of setbacks. A blood vessel ruptured in his stomach, almost sending him into shock in 2018. Then he endured the death of a grandfather who meant so much to him. And then there was the pandemic, limiting his activities even more than most.

Kelly contacted Gainsborough and asked if her son could visit Cody’s Wish. He was warned that the second time might not go as well as the first, as the colt had developed into a less predictable 2-year-old colt brimming with energy.

The reunion was arranged nonetheless, amid fears that Cody would be terribly disappointed. But no. Cody’s Wish walked steadily towards his namesake until his head touched his hand, signaling that the boy should pet him. Cody started stroking his nose.

“I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard him laugh out loud, just a big belly laugh,” Kelly said. “And he started doing it the day they took the horse out. It was amazing.”

The foal did not run at 2 years old. When he finished third in each of his first three starts the following season, with everyone coming to New York, Cody told his mother, Leslie, that the horse wouldn’t win until he was able to traveling from their home in Richmond, Kentucky to see the race.

The family was filled with excitement as they made the 90-minute journey on October 2 to Churchill Downs. “It was breathtaking from the moment we walked in the door to the moment we walked out,” Kelly said.

They were treated like celebrities throughout. The jockeys took the time to greet Cody. Remarkably, Cody’s Wish spotted him as he circled the paddock. “He had his ears pricked up and his eyes fixed on Cody,” the father said.

They enjoyed a grand view of the winner’s circle as Cody’s Wish did exactly what Cody predicted he would do, winning by two lengths in an emotionally charged triumph.

“It’s a fantastic story. It’s like Disney,” said Michael Banahan, director of Bloodstock for Godolphin USA. “You wouldn’t make it up.”

Cody’s Wish was on its way. His first win marked the start of a six-game winning streak in his last seven starts. That includes the one-mile Westchester Stakes on May 7 at Belmont Park and, most recently, his first Grade 1 score in the seven-mile Forego Stakes on August 27 at Saratoga Racecourse, which took his earnings to life at $812,130.

The Forego, with Junior Alvarado on board, was a surprising surprise for Jackie’s Warrior. The defending sprint champion had gone undefeated in his first four starts this season. Jackie’s Warrior had never lost in the previous five races at Saratoga, all stakes.

Cody had predicted victory in the Forego. The race went perfectly with Jackie’s Warrior under intense pressure from Pipeline during the early stages. A furious rally from Cody’s Wish did the rest.

“When he starts moving, he keeps moving,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “He needed to gain experience and now he’s become a racehorse.”

Cody couldn’t be more excited as he can’t wait to attend the Breeders’ Cup at nearby Keeneland, where Cody’s Wish is set to race the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile on November 5th. He has already asked his parents to buy him a blue pinstripe suit for the special occasion. It’s not every day that a young man who has taken on one challenge after another gets to cheer on a big-hearted horse that has changed his life.