Mila's Wish Comes True at Gulfstream

Mila's Wish | Ryan Thompson


When Mila's Wish (Cajun Breeze) just held on for a debut victory–and then survived a claim of foul–at Gulfstream Park Friday, track announcer Pete Aiello clued the crowd into what a special moment it was when he said, “You've heard of Cody's Wish. Here's the Florida version. Here's Mila's Wish.” Much like the 2023 Horse of the Year who was named after the late Cody Dorman, the 2-year-old colt was making the wish of another youngster come true.

Mila Spillone is a 4-year-old battling Aicardi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that has left her blind in one eye and, with low muscle tone, she is unable to walk or talk. The lifespan of someone with Aicardi syndrome is roughly 18 years.

Michael Yates was able to make Mila's wish of having a horse named after her come true and the colt duly delivered with a dramatic first win Friday.

“A really good friend of mine, [bloodstock agent] Sean Perl, reached out to me,” explained Yates, who trains the colt and bred and owns him in the name of his Shadybrook Farm. “His sister Jackie is director of special events for Make a Wish Southern Florida. And so that is how the connection was made. They were trying to find somebody who would grant Mila's wish to name a horse after her and I accepted the challenge. I thought it was a wonderful thing.”

In the winner's circle with Mila's Wish | Lauren King

Yates was originally hoping to find a homebred filly to name after the little girl with the big wish, but ultimately picked a son of the gritty Cajun Breeze, whom he co-owned and trained to three stakes-placings in Florida.

“I couldn't decide which filly that I own to name that,” Yates said. “The horses were getting closer to running. And this horse was showing some talent. I thought it would be a good horse to name after her. It was also a horse that I bred and Sean Perl had actually picked the mare out for me when I bought the mare.”

The 9-5 favorite in his first trip to the post Friday, Mila's Wish led from the start and was some two lengths clear at midstretch before just holding off the resurgent Lou (Brethren) by a head while running greenly late.

“I expected he would run well, but as with any 2-year-old, you never really know,” Yates said. “But I expected he would run well, he had worked well.”

Yates met Mila and her family for the first time Friday at Gulfstream.

“They were over the top elated,” Yates reported. “And very grateful for us naming the horse after their daughter. They had a wonderful day here at the races.”

Looking ahead to a potential next start for Mila's Wish, Yates said, “It's pretty early, but he's a Florida-bred and we are based here at Gulfstream. We will probably point forward to the first next step for the 2-year-olds as it comes along, which would probably be a 2-year-old stakes, if that comes about prior to an allowance race being written.”

As for the inspiration for the colt's name, Mila's mother said, “Mila has overcome many challenges and each day is a blessing. She truly is a miracle.”

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