Heart of the Breeders’ Cup, Cody Dorman Dies at 17

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Cody Dorman Cody’s Wish obituary Godolphin Kelly Dorman Make-A-Wish Mott Keeneland Danny Mulvihill Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
Cody Dorman, pictured at the 2022 Breeders’ Cup, died Nov. 5, 2023. The racehorse Cody’s Wish was named to honor Dorman after the two met and bonded when Cody’s Wish was a foal. (Anne Eberhardt/Blood-Horse)

Cody Dorman, the 17-year-old Kentuckian at the heart of the most emotionally charged story during this year’s and last year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships, died Nov. 5 on his way home after watching his namesake Cody’s Wish win his second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, according to the Dorman family.

“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,” read a statement from the family. “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. From Churchill Downs, to Keeneland, to Saratoga to Santa Anita this weekend, we could not move 20 feet without someone stopping to tell us just that.”

Dorman was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a rare genetic disorder affecting many body parts. He experienced frequent seizures. He was unable to walk or speak, relying on a tablet to communicate. His father, Kelly, estimated that his son had undergone between 40 and 50 operations, including open-heart surgery.

“With Cody’s diagnosis at birth, we always knew this day would come, but we were determined to help Cody live his best life for however long we had him. 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, always keeping a positive attitude and being more concerned about those around him than himself,” said the family.

Dorman and Cody’s Wish made their first connection during a family’s visit in October 2018 to Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm, which was arranged by Keeneland with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. During this visit, farm manager Danny Mulvihill wanted Dorman to meet a foal but was concerned the young man’s wheelchair might be too scary. He chose an unnamed son of Curlin and a Godolphin homebred.

“He was a nice, quiet, laid-back foal,” Mulvihill recalled with Tom Pedulla for America’s Best Racing. “It was very important from my point of view to see if we could get a foal close to Cody, knowing he was in a wheelchair.”

Visiting with Cody's Wish last week. (Eclipse Sportswire)

After the young colt sniffed around the boy and wheelchair, he laid his head onto Dorman’s lap and the tie between them was sealed. Godolphin named the colt Cody’s Wish in Dorman’s honor.

Said Mulvihill: “This is a foal who almost by intuition knew what we wanted him to do.”

“As people of faith, we are comforted in the knowledge that Cody has gone home. We pray that he watch over all of us, especially Kylie the best little sister in the world,” the family said in its statement. “We are sincerely grateful for all those who have shared this journey with Cody and our family. The joy that his interactions with Cody’s Wish have brought him the last five years is indescribable. We will rely on those memories to help us through an unimaginably difficult time.”

Team Cody’s Wish, which also includes the Dorman family, owner-breeder Godolphin, trainer Bill Mott and his team, and jockey Junior Alvarado, were honored last week by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters with the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of racing.

The Breeders’ Cup sent out 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 Dorman family asks for donations be made to Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana in lieu of flowers. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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