Horse Wisher: Cody’s Wish, Pal Cody Dorman Looking for Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Repeat

It’s as touching a story as you’ll ever find, the unique relationship between a courageous, long-suffering teenager and a thoroughbred who would grow up to be a champion.

It took three years for Cody’s Wish to go from awkward weanling to world-beater, but from the beginning, there was a bond between him and Cody Dorman.

Dorman, now 17, has a rare genetic disorder called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome that confines him to a wheelchair and prevents him from speaking. Cody has endured nearly 50 operations, including two open-heart surgeries.

Cody’s Wish: A heartwarming saga of resilience and victory at Breeders Cup 2023

“This kid’s got the biggest heart in the world,” his father, Kelly Dorman, said this week in his Kentucky drawl. “It’s priceless to see how much that horse has done for him.”

Cody’s Wish, trained by William I. Mott, during morning workouts at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on October 28, 2023, as horses prepare for the 2023 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Carlos J. Calo/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup

The saga began in the autumn of 2018 at Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Ky., on a visit sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That’s when a six-month-old colt wandered over to a 12-year-old boy.

“He put his head in Cody’s lap,” his mother, Leslie, told NBC Sports, “and it just started from that moment. From that day on, he was a different child. It changed everything.”

“It was magical on a level I’ve never seen before,” Kelly Dorman said. “And they have an interaction like that every time they’re together. It seems like those two speak some type of language. You can’t hear it, but you can certainly feel it and see it.”

The next year, the horse was named after the boy.

From Humble Beginnings to Breeders’ Cup Glory

There was no sign early on that Cody’s Wish would become a superstar. He didn’t debut until June 2021, his 3-year-old season, and finished third in his first three races until finally breaking his maiden in early October. He dominated by two lengths in a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs, and the swift time (1:33.88) suggested he might turn into something special.

It took seven months, but a five-length runaway in the Westchester Stakes (G3) on May 7, 2022, at Aqueduct, began a six-race winning streak, all in graded stakes, that included the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland. The remarkable run continued this spring in two Grade 1’s, the Churchill Downs Stakes and the Met Mile. It ended in the Whitney (G1) Aug. 5 at Saratoga, where 1 1/8 miles proved too long for the standout sprinter/miler.

Cody’s Wish bounced back Oct. 1, overcoming a slow start to take Aqueduct’s 7-furlong Vosburgh (G2), a prep for his title defense in the Dirt Mile.

“It was great having him back in the winner’s circle,” his Hall of Fake trainer, Bill Mott, said. “It wasn’t so brilliant that you worry about it taking everything out of him, but it was enough to see that he still wants to do it and can do it.”

Cody has attended many of Cody’s Wish’s races, and this spring he used head movements to communicate through a tablet. “I want to thank God for letting me have this experience,” he signaled. “It saved my life, without a doubt.”

The heartwarming story has been dramatized on racing telecasts, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup. On Saturday at Santa Anita, the Dirt Mile again will be must-see TV, and the Dormans will be front and center.

“First and foremost, I want to thank Cody’s Wish for doing all of this,” Kelly Dorman said. “It came out of left field on us and was really unexpected. The story has gone all around the world. It’s helped Cody physically and mentally.

“I kind of get worked up any time I talk about it, and I am really grateful for all of it. It’s really special in more ways than one. It’s been a blessing.”




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