Cody's Wish, the gutsy 5-year-old winner of four of five stakes races this year and beloved equine pal to the late Cody Dorman, has been voted the first back-to-back winner of the Secretariat Vox Populi Award.
Secretariat's owner Penny Chenery created the award in 2010 to annually recognize the racehorse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the public and gained recognition for the sport.
Cody's Wish's story is inextricably linked with that of his namesake, Cody Dorman, who lived courageously with a rare genetic disorder and passed away on Nov. 5, just six weeks shy of his 18th birthday a day after witnessing Cody's Wish battle to a nose victory in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.
Representatives of the Cody's Wish team will return to Santa Anita Park on Jan. 13 for the Vox Populi Award trophy presentation as part of the day’s activities.
Owned by Godolphin, trained by Bill Mott, and ridden by Junior Alvarado, in 2023 Cody's Wish won the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes presented by Ford, Grade 1 Hill 'N' Dale Metropolitan Handicap, Grade 2 Vosburgh Stakes, and for the second straight year, the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He also placed third in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes.
Beyond his victories and grit on the track, it was the horse’s connection to Cody Dorman that elicited widespread admiration and affection from fans.
"Cody’s Wish embodies all that the Secretariat Vox Populi Award represents. He has wowed us with his performances on the racetrack and touched countless people’s hearts with his profound connection with Cody Dorman," said Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat’s late owner Penny Chenery. "In this 50th anniversary year of Secretariat's Triple Crown, it is inspiring to see the twin legacies of Cody and Cody’s Wish honored through this Award."
For five years, Cody’s Wish and Cody Dorman shared a unique connection, beginning with their first encounter in 2018 at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm, a visit made possible by Keeneland’s Make-A-Wish Day. Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome had relegated the then-12-year-old Cody to a wheelchair and rendered him unable to speak. An inquisitive 5-month-old foal — by leading sire Curlin out of the Tapit mare Dance Card — was introduced to Cody and put his head in the boy’s lap. With that, the bay colt earned his name: Cody's Wish.
Over the next few years, a number of such sweet interactions occurred and the special rapport between the two continued to their earthly end. Cody’s Wish ran his final race on Nov. 4 and Cody Dorman passed the next day, but their bond endures for those who know their story, beginning with Cody’s family.
"We want to thank everyone who voted for Cody's Wish to help him achieve his second consecutive Vox Populi Award," wrote Cody Dorman's father Kelly, mother Leslie and sister Kylie in a special message. "The feeling of amazement and happiness has never changed from the first moment we met Cody's Wish to this day and beyond. Seeing his performances on the track and his enduring love for Cody in person will be branded into our hearts forever."
A fifth-generation great-grandson of Secretariat, Cody's Wish twice has earned the award that bears his forefather's name and represents the vox populi, Latin for "voice of the people."
Retiring with 11 wins in 16 starts and career earnings of $3,106,030, Cody's Wish will stand stud at Godolphin’s Jonabell Farm, home of Darley's American stallions in Lexington, Kentucky.
Nominees for the award were submitted by the Vox Populi Committee, comprised of distinguished personalities from within and outside the racing industry. Voters also had the option to write in their own favorite candidate to recognize other exceptional horses.
In winning the Vox Populi Award last year, Cody's Wish joined the celebrated roster of racing stars who had received it previously: Hot Rod Charlie (2021), Authentic (2020), Bricks and Mortar (2019), Winx (2018), Ben's Cat (2017), California Chrome (2016 and 2014), American Pharoah (2015), Mucho Macho Man (2013), Paynter (2012), Rapid Redux (2011), and inaugural winner Zenyatta (2010).