Cody and Cody: The Final Chapter

The story of Cody’s Wish and Cody Dorman had the ending everyone expected; then it almost didn’t; then it did once again; then finally it didn’t. That was the gamut of emotions that surrounded the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. And when it was over it all sunk in and left everyone to interpret the story and outcome in his or her own way. No matter how you did it was a story for the ages, not only about Cody Dorman but the horse who made it all happen. ~ Steve Haskin

Cody and Cody: The Final Chapter 

By Steve Haskin


We all know that Cody’s Wish brought Cody Dorman out of the depths of depression when his life was becoming too much of a burden. He brought him out into the sunlight, gave him fame, and turned him into a source of inspiration to people around the world who followed his story. It was a story that began when the colt was just a baby and introduced to Cody through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He laid his head on the boy’s lap, and in many ways has never taken it off.

He took Cody to places he never would have visited, and each time he presented him with a gift through a special bonding that is beyond our comprehension. The final place he took him was to California, far away from his Kentucky home. There, he presented him with his greatest gift yet, one that was paid for with guts, toughness, and determination against a game battle-tested classic winner.

It seemed as if there could be no more proper ending to this amazing story, which has as many questions as answers. Why of all horses was this one chosen to bond with a boy who had battled an invisible and unexplainable assailant that had ravaged his body all his young life? Why did Cody Dorman’s fighting spirit manifest itself in this particular horse? Or was it the other way around?

Was it the colt’s fighting spirit that kept this story, and Cody, alive the past two years? If there was one indelible image following the heart-pounding stretch run of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile it was Cody’s Wish returning with his face covered with dirt from the kickback he had to fight through for most of the race. To resort to anthropomorphism, it was as if he knew he had to with such a weight on his shoulders and the entire world rooting for a fairy tale ending.

And when it was over, Cody Dorman, knowing this was Cody’s Wish’s farewell to him, was wheeled onto a plane, strapped in his seat, closed his eyes, and woke up in Nirvana, where there can be a Cody’s Wish for eternity with no shackles this time to keep them apart.

With cameras constantly pointed at Cody and the swarms of reporters gathered around his family, it almost seems as if Cody traded every last ounce of his energy to enjoy his special friend and give the story the ending everyone wanted. This is what he wanted and this was the way it was meant to end. Years ago, doctors presented the Dorman family with a much shorter script before destiny rewrote it. Perhaps the possibility of Cody returning home to the darkness that encompassed him before Cody’s Wish came into his life was an ending never meant to be written.

For the past year it was as if the racing world had been engrossed in an O. Henry short story. They watched and waited for the ending they had been hoping for all along, but then came the twist no one was expecting. In many ways it all made sense, because with the tragedy came a certain beauty and symmetry.

As O. Henry said in Gift of the Magi, “Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles…” From Breeders’ Cup Saturday to the following Monday morning, when we learned of Cody Dorman’s passing, there were plenty of all three. It is up to each of us to decide if it was untimely or timely in some ethereal way.

Cody’s Wish the Racehorse

Cody’s Wish and Cody Dorman will always be linked together and rightly so. But let us not forget about the horse who finds himself in line for Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male. Behind the human interest story there is a horse who should also be remembered for his accomplishments on the racetrack.

The son of Curlin won back-back Breeders’ Cup Dirt Miles at Keeneland and Santa Anita around two turns and won the prestigious Met Mile at Belmont Park around one turn. He also won the seven-furlong Vosburgh and one-mile Westchester at Aqueduct, Forego at Saratoga, and Churchill Downs Stakes at Churchill Downs.

He ended his career winning 11 of his final 13 starts, with his only two defeats coming at 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles, both farther than he wanted to go, with his comfort level being around one turn, as evidenced by his nine-for nine record at seven furlongs and a flat mile.

Cody’ Wish burst on the national scene when he upset the defending Sprint champion Jackie’s Warrior in the Forego Stakes in a sizzling 1:20 4/5, earning a 112 Beyer figure. And Jackie’s Warrior went into the race riding a four-race winning streak and having won 11 graded stakes in his career, five of them grade 1’s. What made Jackie’s Warrior even more formidable was that he was the only horse to win grade 1 stakes at Saratoga at ages 2, 3, and 4.

Cody’s Wish’s speed figures and consistency were unmatched, as he closed out his career with seven consecutive negative Thoro-Graph numbers. He ran seven furlongs in 1:20 4/5, 1:21, and 1:21 4/5, and a mile in 1:33 4/5, 1:34, 1:34 1/5, 1:34 3/5, and 1:34 4/5.

As for his competition, the horses he defeated to this date have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Whitney, Preakness, Haskell, Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby, Woodward, Blue Grass, Suburban, H. Allen Jerkens, Champagne, and Awesome Again, and placed in the Kentucky Derby. Travers, Belmont Stakes, Pacific Classic, Pennsylvania Derby, Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Carter Handicap, Dubai Golden Shaheen, Wood Memorial, American Pharoah, and Santa Anita Sprint Championship.

The Story Comes to an End

This was the ride on which Cody’s Wish took Cody Dorman, who had to revel in silence at his victories, with his cheers confined to his mind, and who no doubt thanked his namesake for trying so hard in his rare defeats and for just being in his life. To Cody’s family, especially Kelly, his dad and spokesman, this was a blessing they embraced and shared so eloquently with the world.

There is often a reason certain things happen. And many of those reasons are difficult for us to fully comprehend. We know that people communicate through the written and spoken word; simply put what they see and what they hear. But do we really know how animals communicate or the depth of their senses, and how and why they connect with certain humans, especially small children and the handicapped? All we know is that this one horse selected at random by Godolphin to participate in the Make-a-Wish program and this young man stricken with a debilitating illness as a child existed together on a plane that is far beyond our reach.

Many have expressed their feelings in spiritual form. What we don’t understand we envision the way we want it to be, and that gives up hope that there is more to life and death than what we experience with our senses. Cody’s Wish and Cody Dorman were destined to meet and conquer, perhaps for several reasons, one being to temporarily breathe a breath of fresh air into a sport suffocating from the stench of outside ignorance, misfortune on the racetrack, and lack of leadership and answerability. Steps have been made in the right direction, but recently they have paled compared to the infusion of life, hope, and the reminder of how wonderful horseracing can be that was provided by one horse and one boy.

Long ago it took one young girl to express what Cody Dorman and other young people have felt about the magic of horses. Maybe those words will have a similar impact today. It was Velvet Brown in the movie National Velvet who said, “I think all the time about horses. All day and every night…Every day I pray to God to give me horses…wonderful horses.”

Cody’s and Velvet’s prayers both were answered…80 years apart. But the love of horses has always been and always will be timeless, and that same wish by young horse lovers will be answered 80 years from now, despite the obstacles that lie ahead for the sport. Let’s hope that the Cody’s Wish and Cody Dorman story does not prove to be a quick fix of emotion, but instead the beginning of racing’s long road back.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to since 2020.



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79 Responses to “Cody and Cody: The Final Chapter”

  1. Karole Northrup says:

    What a wonderful tribute to this amazing story. I had a chance encounter with the Dorman family the evening before the last race of Cody’s Wish at Santa Anita. Very humble family and after a photo, Mr. Dorman pulled a sticker out of his pocket and gave it to me that now has a place on my fridge. The sticker is one of Cody and Cody’s Wish. Steve, you show how magical horses truly are and the healing powers they possess.

    We missed you in Paris!

  2. arlingtonfan says:

    Sad to report that Work All Week, Illinois-bred winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, died as a result of injuries sustained in a paddock accident. He was 14. RIP and thanks for the memories.

  3. Matthew W says:

    Good to see Mandela honored….a pretty good career, with a 40-horse stable …

  4. Matthew W says:

    Negative FIVE, Thorograph number for Elite Power, something he did earlier in the year—if ever a sprinter wins HOY it would be THIS year…

    • Todd Vaughn says:

      I agree. He has been the forgotten horse for two years. He was more dominant in his division than Cody or WA were in theirs. His only loss was in a ridiculously paceless race. I suspect Cody will get HOY, and maybe rightly so, but Elite Power has always impressed.

      • Matthew W says:

        I mean when you consider he went to the middle east….he has been top level for 1 1/2 years, one of the best sprinters of my lifetime, I was rooting for The Chosen Vron but predicted the winning exacta, Elite Power ran those big races all over the world, and he won the big ones, he would be my pick—-even though Whitey won the big one—because as you said: Elite Power was Elite, among sprinters, historically speaking …

  5. Matthew W says:

    Bobby Ussery passed, 88 years……I didn’t know much about NY Racing, but I was aware of “Ussery’s Alley”—his signature inside lane at around the half mile pole—but I did not know which track it was, Aqueduct, Belmont or both—I remember Bobby Frankel’s story, of when he took $40 to the track, in 1964, and parlayed it all to win, on Ussery’s mounts, winning $20,000….

    • SJ says:

      It was at Aqueduct. He would send his horse and angle outside, almost to outer rail. There the surface was nowhere as deep as the normal paths of the track. Ussery would stay out there until approaching the turn, when he would angle in and the banking would almost have a slingshot effect, opening up, in many cases, an insurmountable lead. Hence “Ussery’s Alley” He was a terrific rider, winning many major stakes aboard many great horses. You could cash another bet, years after he retired from riding, by wagering those that didn’t recognize him, that he was a former jock. Much like the late trainer John Tammaro, a former jock himself, who grew rather rotund. Ussery was not that excessive, though. Great guy, terrific humor. RIP

      • Matthew W says:

        He discovered the water truck hit the outside part more …so he would bring his mount wide, and then cross over…

      • Jiffy says:

        Anyone who followed racing in the 60’s and 70’s will never forget Bobby Ussery. He was an outstanding rider and also a very original one–his style, strategy, and tactics were entirely his own. I wonder if Ussery’s Alley or any remains of it still exist or if it has long since been leveled or plowed under. The way he used it was amazing to watch. Racing has lost a big one here–my sympathy to his family and fans.

        • SJ says:

          The main track has been resurfaced many times since those years, a few were major renovations. you are correct, Ussery was quite unique, in many ways.

  6. Steve just a gem. Well written and touching tribute to Cody Dorman. Though his life was short his story touched many a heart through out the world. May he rest in peace.

  7. diane kwolek says:

    Steve, no one could have expressed this truly remarkable relationship better than you. You are one of our all time great story tellers and I thank you so much for telling their story with compassion and love .

  8. Bill Dawson says:

    A very moving tribute to a brave little boy who will long be remembered.
    I’m sure your words brought comfort not only to Cody’s family but to all of the fans of Cody and Cody.
    Thank you Steve, well done.

  9. Russell Cardenas says:

    As usual Steve, beautifully written.

  10. Lynda King says:

    So many thoughtful, sincere and caring comments here and on your FB page Steve.

    Cody’s brief life is so inspirational. His story gives us hope that if we care about each as deeply as Cody and Cody’s Wish felt about each other, the world would be a better place for all.

    Thank you Cody for everything. I will never forget you.

  11. I have been crying everyday since Cody’s passing, but my tears are for different reasons. I cry for the pain his family is going through but thankful tears that they shared Cody with each and everyone of us. I truly came to love him so much, he put a smile on my face daily along with the tears. I believe as many do that God brought Cody and Cody’s Wish together to show us and remind us of what’s really important in life. Not the silly things we get mad at everyday but seeing true love between a beautiful child and a beautiful animal. It was already written in the stars for them to bond and I for one am so grateful to Cody and his family for inspiring us all. RIP angel and ride like the wind in heaven.

  12. Such an almost unbelievable story. It’s almost like a fairy tale.

    As a lifetime lover of horses(I’m 84) this story of Cody Dorman and his
    Love of Cody’s Wish is truly an event worthy of fairy tale status. The exciting part is
    Of course, it is true.

  13. Carol OBrien says:

    Love your writing and love Cody and Cody’s Wish!

  14. Bobbie says:

    Thank you Steve for that very heartwarming and personal story I was fortunate enough to be at Santa Anita on Saturday to see that race I got to see Cody’s wish up close and personal believe me the pictures don’t tell how beautiful of a horse he really is he’s just gorgeous and I got to see Cody too all dressed up in his little hat with a little bow tie white shirt in a vest just sitting there waiting to cheer his horse on and what a race it was Cody’s wish was just covered with dirt when he passed his but it didn’t stop him from winning he went ahead and won for his best friend such a wonderful wonderful story thank you Steve I shall never forget this day

  15. Bobbie says:

    Thank you Steve for that very personal and heartwarming story I was fortunate enough to be at Santa Anita race track on Saturday and got to see Cody’s wish up close and personal I also managed to see Cody himself all dressed up in a cute little cap with a little bow tie white shirt and a vest just there watching his horse and cheering him on and when that horse flew past us during the race he was covered with dirt but that didn’t stop him he went on to win the race I will never ever forget this day I’m so lucky to have been able to see them both thank you again Steve for a wonderful story

  16. Barbara Strother says:

    I read this article without looking for the author. As I was reading it, I thought what insight into our love of horses, the magic of horses, and the instinct of horses. My mare laid her neck over an old warrior who was nearly blind and could barely walk. Her instinct was to comfort him before we went on to ride. I had to check the author (as I am reading it on and of course – it was written by the superlative Steve Haskin! We miss your wisdom Mr. Haskin.

  17. Sherry Finch says:

    Beautiful story of two Amazing Cody’s. This is what “make a wish” does and what horseracing is all about. God has blessed all with there love story.