Heroes of Churchill Downs: Cody's Wish

Apr 05, 2023 Sara Dacus TwinSpires.com

Cody’s Wish, a horse with a heartwarming backstory who rose to prominence in 2022, has resumed training for his five-year-old debut.

The bay won his last four races, crowned by the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), for an overall record of 7-1-3 from 11 career starts. His connections, including Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, are tentatively targeting the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) on the Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard for a potential return.

The Godolphin homebred’s incredible story began at their Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Ky, where Cody Dorman, a teenager with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, came to visit with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The farm manager selected the unnamed son of Curlin to meet Cody because the foal was nice, quiet, and laid-back. The foal sniffed around a little bit and laid his head in Cody’s lap. A powerful connection began, and Godolphin named him Cody’s Wish. Cody visited his namesake a second time when he was a two-year-old, and the bond was evident again.

Cody's Wish (Photo by Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

Cody’s Wish was unraced at two, and his three third place finishes came in his first three career starts. Cody told his mother that the horse would not win until he was able to see him race. The family was able to make the 90-minute trip from their Richmond, Ky., home to Churchill Downs for the colt’s fourth start, and that’s when the magic started. Cody’s Wish won by two lengths, and Cody Dorman was in the winner’s circle. Cody’s Wish concluded his three-year-old season by winning two more starts at Churchill Downs.

RELATED: Cody's Wish hopes to win for Make-A-Wish namesake at Churchill Downs

In his four-year-old bow, Cody’s Wish placed second, finishing a neck behind Scalding in the Challenger S. (G3) at Tampa Bay. He then notched four consecutive wins, including the Hanshin S. at Churchill.

He vaulted to stardom in his race before the Breeders’ Cup, upsetting 2021 champion sprinter Jackie’s Warrior in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga. Cody’s Wish passed his accomplished foe five strides before the wire to post a 1 1/4-length victory in a final time of 1:20.95, just .55 seconds off the track record.

“This horse has trained like a good horse from the very beginning,” Mott said. “He’s become more professional and learned how to run. I thought he’d probably win the first out of his life and it took him a few races to get going and really come into form. He needed to get some experience and now he’s turned into a racehorse.”

This win led him to be named the 2-1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He was a bit slow at the break and was last early on. He raced in the four path on the far turn, rallied in the upper stretch, and passed Cyberknife in the final strides, getting up to win by a head. He pushed his career earnings to over $1.3 million and gave jockey Junior Alvarado his first Breeders’ Cup win and the Dorman family the experience of a lifetime. They were trackside, and the winner’s circle scene was emotional.

This win in the Dirt Mile was voted the NTRA Moment of the Year, and the colt finished second in Eclipse Award voting for champion male sprinter of 2022 behind stablemate Elite Power.

Soon after Cody’s wish won the Dirt Mile, Mott suggested the $1 million Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day, commonly referred to as the Met Mile, as a long-term target.

“The thing about it is he did get a late start in life and has only had really one season of hard racing,” Mott said. “He would be a horse that probably is just coming into his own these last two starts.”

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