I Got It Wrong, Cody's Wish Is Horse Of The Year

Cody's Wish | Horsephotos


What I wrote in Monday's TDN, that Idiomatic (Curlin) should be Horse of the Year, well, never mind.

It took the tragic news of the passing of Cody Dorman for me to wake up and realize that while Idiomatic had a terrific year, voting for her for Horse of the Year would mean not voting for Cody's Wish (Curlin), and what a mistake that would be.

Everything I had to say about the on-track credentials of the two remains the same. Both won a Breeders' Cup race, both won three Grade I's during the year. But I argued that Idiomatic's overall body of work gave her the edge over Cody's Wish and everyone else. She won eight of nine races and was on top of her game from January through Breeders' Cup day. In an era where most trainers and owners are happy to get four or five races from their horses during a year, what she accomplished was remarkable.

I still maintain that she had a better year than Cody's Wish. Just slightly so, anyway. What I failed to realize is that sometimes what happens on the racetrack is not all that matters, that it's ok to vote with your heart.

Cody's Wish had a Horse-of-the-Year campaign. Coming into the Breeders' Cup, he had won the GI Churchill Downs S, the GI Metropolitan H., the GII Vosburgh S. The only defeat came in the GI Whitney S., where, trying nine furlongs for the first time in his career, he was out of his element. I didn't think he would win Saturday's GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He just not as good around two turns as he is around one and I thought that, this year, that would prove to be his undoing. But he won the race again. In 2022, it was by a neck. This year it was by a nose. He was in race that is not in his comfort zone, but he won it anyway. He won it on class.

But the story is so much bigger than the Dirt Mile. Cody's Wish and Cody Dorman, who passed away Sunday at age 17 on his way back to Kentucky from Santa Anita, will forever be linked. We first met Dorman last year when the media latched onto his story. Born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, he first met Cody's Wish as a then-unnamed yearling while touring Godolphin as part of a Make-A-Wish outing.

We don't really understand how it happens, but we know that it does. Sometimes something magical happens when horses and humans befriend one another. The weanling acted as if he knew Dorman would was having a hard time of it and could use a friend. Gentle as a puppy, he nuzzled Dorman and then put his head in his lap.

Two years later, Dorman was not doing well. It got to the point where his parents feared he was losing the will to live. The antidote? Another visit to the farm to see the horse the Godolphin team had now named Cody's Wish. The two picked right up where they left off. From there, Dorman became Cody's Wish's biggest fan. He traveled to many of his races and was there for both Breeders' Cup wins. Tears rolled down his cheeks when his namesake won. His parents have said that his love affair with the horse led to a marked improvement in his outlook on life.

Horse racing has been beaten down by so many negative stories of late, mainly ones that involve horses dying on the track, and it needed something to pick its collective head up. And here comes Cody's Wish and Cody Dorman, a story that was so inspirational, so uplifting that everyone, even the most cynical among us, was moved, often to tears.

“This heartfelt story has touched the hearts of many in and outside of the Thoroughbred industry,” Dan Pride, chief operating officer of Godolphin, said in a statement. “And while Cody's passing has saddened us, we find comfort in knowing that Cody found many joyous moments during this journey with his best friend, Cody's Wish. Our hearts are with the Dorman family.”

We cheered every time Cody's Wish won, and not because we had a bet on him but because we knew what this horse was doing for a young man born with a syndrome that had to have made his life immensely difficult. We cheered because we knew this story made everyone feel better about a sport that was going through trying times.

So, should that matter when it comes to voting for Horse of the Year? Absolutely. There's no reason why we shouldn't look beyond the x's and o's of what happened on the racetrack and look at the bigger picture, take into account what made us smile, what moved us, what made for a good story.

When Zenyatta (Street Cry {Ire}) was named Horse of the Year in 2010 over Blame (Arch) I was on the losing end of that argument, voting for Blame. They had met once and Blame had beaten her in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic. Why didn't that mean he should have been named Horse of the Year and not Zenyatta? Looking back, I now get it. Zenyatta had had one of the most remarkable careers we have seen this century and one defeat shouldn't have erased everything else she accomplished and what a feel-good story she had been. Those who voted for her realized this was bigger than just the one race.

Though different, Cody's Wish and his story is much bigger than Zenyatta. We will see other great race horses, ones as good as Zenyatta. But we will never again see a story as special as the one that was the bond between a very good race horse and the young man who thrived in his presence.

That matters. It matters a lot. Cody's Wish is your Horse of the Year.

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