Some might say Cody Dorman’s life came to an abrupt, tragic end. After all, he wasn’t even 18 when he succumbed to a lifelong battle with a disease that confined him to a wheelchair and left him unable to speak. Yet his brief life spoke volumes.
Though he wasn’t supposed to live more than 24 months, his perseverance and belief stunned and inspired everyone − including a four-legged friend, named Cody’s Wish in his honor. The pair formed an undefinable, unmistakable, unbreakable bond. The pair has formed an undefinable, unmistakable, unbreakable bond based on a foundation of pure connection between the Dorman family and Team Godolphin at Gainsborough Farm. Through their generosity, kindness and class, the bond was reinforced, bringing strength to Cody, victory to Cody’s Wish, and bittersweet joy to the world. “From my view,” says farm manager Danny Mulvihill, “this was orchestrated from a level higher than on Earth.”
The relationship began in 2018, as a follow-up to Cody’s involvement in the Make-A-Wish® program. Born with a genetic condition known as Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, Cody suffered frequent seizures, and underwent more than 50 surgeries. The Keeneland Association invited nearby Make-A-Wish® participants to its track and a tour of a horse farm. Cody was paired with Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm. To meet and greet Cody, Danny chose a then-unnamed, laid-back, six-month-old foal. The horse stepped forward, touched Cody’s hand, then rested his nose in Cody’s lap. “The foal was so relaxed,” Danny says, “It was a really nice moment, very satisfying.” The “nice moment” tugged at the hearts of the staff at Godolphin, especially office manager Mary Bourne, who suggested naming the horse Cody’s Wish. “Easiest name decision we’ve ever made,” Danny says.
Over and over for five years, the horse uplifted Cody, and vice versa. When Cody was depressed after the death of his grandfather, a complex surgery and the onset of COVID, Cody’s father, Kelly, asked Danny if Cody could visit. A full-grown thoroughbred in training, Cody’s Wish again nuzzled Cody’s hand. “It was like he remembered Cody, and it changed everything,” Kelly says. “The horse flipped a switch and brought back the old Cody.”
When Cody’s Wish finished third in his first three starts in 2021, Cody and his family visited the Churchill Downs paddock before his next race. The horse saw Cody, walked to him and touched him – before his first career victory. By the time of the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland, their relationship had garnered media attention, so writers and photographers gathered in the paddock to capture the reunion. Again, the colt placed his nose in Cody’s lap, then rubbed it down Cody’s cheek. “That was a magical, spiritual moment,” Kelly says. Stumbling out of the gate, Cody’s Wish had to come from nine lengths behind to win by a head. “The wish has come true. This one’s for you, Cody,” said announcer Larry Collmus to the cheers and tears of fans at Keeneland and around the world.
The victories kept coming. Cody became a Make-A-Wish® ambassador, helping to raise enough to fulfill 50 wishes. “When we see others get their wish, we relive what Cody went through and how it impacted his life,” Kelly says.
After winning three of his first four starts this year, Cody’s Wish crowned his career – and his connection to Cody − with a second Breeders’ Cup victory. Cody and his family flew all the way to Santa Anita in California to share what they knew were the final moments of the horse’s career. Tragically, those moments were also among the last for Cody. He suffered a medical emergency on the trip home and passed away.
“Cody watched his best friend, Cody’s Wish, display his usual perseverance and toughness in winning,” his family said in a statement. “Those are the same characteristics Cody showed time and again. … Anyone who has seen him at the racetrack, especially around Cody’s Wish, understands that in many ways he taught us all how to live. … 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.”