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Cody Dorman, namesake of Breeders’ Cup champion Cody’s Wish, dies at 17

Cody Dorman, the 17-year-old Kentucky boy that two-time Breeders’ Cup champion Cody’s Wish is named after, died on his way back home from the 2023 Breeders’ Cup.

“We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Cody suffered a medical event on our trip home to Kentucky yesterday and he has passed away,” the Dorman family said in a statement. “On Saturday, Cody watched his best friend, Cody’s Wish, display his usual perseverance and toughness in winning a second Breeders’ Cup. Those are the same characteristics Cody has showed time and again for the 18 years we were blessed to have him. We have been completely amazed to experience the impact Cody has had on so many people, through the journey that this wondrous racehorse has taken us all on.”

The tear-jerking story of Cody's Wish, Cody Dorman
Cody Dorman, who has spent a lifetime overcoming the odds, shared a special connection with Cody's Wish from the moment they first met. But an emotional Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile win took their bond to the next level.

Last year in Keeneland, Dorman and Cody’s Wish gave horse racing fans a thrilling, emotionally charged win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Dorman was also in Santa Anita Park this past Saturday to watch Cody’s Wish successfully defend his title in the same race and ride off into retirement a winner.

Dorman was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that often limits the ability to move or speak, and necessitated communication through a tablet.

In October 2018, the Dorman family went to Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm, which was arranged by Keeneland and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Farm manager Danny Mulvihill had about 40 foals to choose from to meet the wheelchair-bound Dorman and chose a mild-mannered six-month-old weanling.

“The foal came up, laid his head on Cody’s lap and just spent some quiet time with Cody,” Mulvihill said.

The connection between the two was instant, and Godolphin named the horse Cody’s Wish to honor Dorman. The colt would go on win eight of his 10 races since 2022, including the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile twice and three other Grade 1 stakes.

Cody's Wish storms to win Churchill Downs Stakes
Cody's Wish, with his namesake at the track, wins an emotional Churchill Downs Stakes in the final stretch.

“We pray that he watch over all of us, especially Kylie the best little sister in the world,” read the family’s statement. “We are sincerely grateful for all those who have shared this journey with Cody and our family.

The Breeders’ Cup made the following statement: “The entire Breeders’ Cup team is devastated by the news of Cody Dorman’s passing yesterday. His story captured our hearts and minds, and his strength, spirit, and determination were fittingly embodied by his namesake’s commanding performances in his honor. We send our sincere condolences to the Dormans, who gave our sport so much by welcoming us into their family.”

The 40th Breeders’ Cup closed Saturday night in a setting California sun at Santa Anita Park and left behind choices.