Runaway: Cody’s Wish wins Horse of the Year

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Cody’s Wish, dominant winner of the Met Mile in 2023, earns Horse of the Year and champion older dirt male honors during Thursday’s Eclipse Awards ceremony in Florida. Tod Marks Photo.

Cody’s Wish dominated the headlines most of the year and came away Thursday with North American racing’s ultimate prize as 2023 Horse of the Year.

Godolphin Racing’s homebred cruised to victory in Horse of the Year voting, conducted by members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Daily Racing Form and National Thoroughbred Racing Association, capping a brilliant career that captured the emotions of the racing world in 2022 and 2023.

Cody’s Wish received 134 of a possible 219 first-place votes for Horse of the Year, finishing well ahead of runner-up and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner White Abarrio with 37 votes. Cody’s Wish also earned champion older dirt male honors, receiving 148 votes with White Abarrio second at 65 and stablemate Elite Power third with five.

Racing’s champions were crowned during the 53rd Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony, presented by FanDuel TV, John Deere, Keeneland, and The Jockey Club, at The Breakers Palm Beach in Florida.

Cody’s Wish won four of five starts, including three Grade 1 races, during his Horse of the Year campaign as a 5-year-old in 2023. Cody’s Wish made his 2023 debut winning the 7-furlong, Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes in May, followed by the Grade 1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park in June. He suffered his only defeat of the year when he was third in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in August. He bounced back in October at Aqueduct to win the Grade 2 Vosburgh Stakes, before defending his title in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park.

Cody’s Wish was named after Cody Dorman, a boy born with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, which severely restricts body movements. As part of a Make A Wish Foundation visit, Cody Dorman, in a wheelchair, bonded with a foal at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in 2018. That foal was named Cody’s Wish, and beginning in 2022 the bond became a national story as Cody’s Wish developed into a top-flight racehorse and Cody Dorman and his family attended many of his races. Sadly, Cody Dorman died on his return home to Kentucky the day after watching Cody’s Wish win the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.    

Thursday night belong to several associated with Cody’s Wish as Godolphin repeated its titles as outstanding owner and outstanding breeder and Bill Mott took home his fourth Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer. Mott also trained champion male sprinter Elite Power and champion 2-year-old filly Just F Y I during his stellar 2023 season.

Godolphin, which won its fourth straight owner crown and third consecutive breeder title, also owns champion 3-year-old filly Pretty Mischievous.

Blue Rose Farm’s Arcangelo won the champion 3-year-old male Eclipse Award. Trained by Jena Antonucci, Arcangelo won the Belmont Stakes and the Travers Stakes to seal the title. Antonucci became the first female trainer to saddle a champion 3-year-old.

The complete list of 2023 champions, and vote totals:

Horse of the Year: Cody’s Wish, 134; White Abarrio, 37; Idiomatic, 21; Up to the Mark, 9; Arcangelo, 6; Auguste Rodin (Ire), 6; Elite Power, 5; Practical Move, 1.

2-year-old male: Fierceness, 205; Big Evs, 4; Muth, 3; Locked, 2; Prince of Monaco, 2; Nutella Fella, 1; The Wine Steward, 1; Timberlake, 1. 

2-year-old filly: Just F Y I, 202; Hard to Justify, 9; Candied, 3; Tamara, 2; Brightwork, 1; Jody’s Pride, 1; She Feels Pretty, 1.  

3-year-old male: Arcangelo, 193; Auguste Rodin (Ire), 21; Arabian Knight, 2; Mage, 1; National Treasure, 1; Two Phil’s, 1.

3-year-old filly: Pretty Mischievous, 182; Randomized, 24; Mawj (IRE), 9; Ceiling Crusher, 2; Faiza, 2.      

Older dirt male: Cody’s Wish, 148; White Abarrio, 65; Elite Power, 5, Defunded, 1.

Older dirt female: Idiomatic, 211; Goodnight Olive, 4; Echo Zulu, 3; Adare Manor, 1.

Male sprinter: Elite Power, 183; Cody’s Wish, 35; Speed Boat Beach, 1.

Female sprinter: Goodnight Olive, 140; Echo Zulu, 72; Maple Leaf Mel, 3; Caravel, 2; Kirstenbosch, 1; Pretty Mischievous, 1.

Male turf horse: Up to the Mark, 141; Auguste Rodin (Ire), 60; Master of The Seas (Ire), 12; Casa Creed, 1; Exaulted, 1; Integration, 1; Nobals, 1; Program Trading, (GB) 1; Red Knight, 1.

Female turf horse: Inspiral (GB), 112; In Italian (GB), 50; Mawj (Ire), 43; Anisette (GB), 4; War Like Goddess, 3; Caravel, 2; Closing Remarks, 1; Didia (Arg), 1; Fev Rover, (Ire), 1; Moira, 1; Surge Capacity, 1.

Steeplechase horse: Merry Maker (Ire), 69; Snap Decision, 50; Awakened, 25; Noah and The Ark (Ire), 24; Belfast Banter (Ire), 19; Scaramanga (Ire), 6; Voter Abstentions, 26.

Owner: Godolphin, 191; Klaravich Stables, Inc., 7; Juddmonte, 5; Gary Barber, 2; Repole Stable, 2; Coleswood Farm, 1; Harris Farm, 1; George Krikorian, 1; Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables, 1; Bruno Schickedanz, 1; Winchell Thoroughbreds, 1; Voter Abstentions, 6.

Breeder: Godolphin, 202; Calumet Farm, 3; Brereton C. Jones, 3; Richard Barton Enterprises, 1; George Krikorian, 1; Repole Stable, 1; Spendthrift Farm, 1; Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, 1; Taylor Made Farm, 1; Voter Abstentions, 5. 

Trainer: Bill Mott, 132; Brad Cox, 60; Steve Asmussen, 8; Chad Brown, 7; Jena Antonucci, 4; Todd  Pletcher, 3; Bob Baffert, 1; Mark Casse, 1; Linda Rice, 1. Voter Abstentions, 2.

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr., 187; Javier Castellano,17; Flavien Prat, 7; Junior Alvarado, 4; Juan Hernandez, 1; Luis Saez, 1; Mike Smith, 1. Voter Abstention, 1.

Apprentice jockey: Axel Concepcion, 166; Sofia Vives, 16; Jaime Torres, 14; Luis R. Rivera Jr., 7; Walter A. Rodriguez, 2; Voter Abstentions, 14.

Other previously announced award winners were honored Thursday:

Media Eclipse Awards
Media Eclipse Awards also are given in the categories of photography, multimedia, news/enterprise writing, feature/commentary writing, television–-feature, and television–live racing programming to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. The 2023 Media Eclipse Awards winners, determined by a judges’ panel for each category and previously announced, are:

Writing – Feature/Commentary – Tim Layden, NBCSports.com – “Maple Leaf Mel and the long arc of a horse racing tragedy,” Nov. 1, 2023

Writing- News/Enterprise – Sean Clancy, The Saratoga Special – “The Worst Test,” Aug. 6, 2023

Live Television Programming – NBC Sports – “The Breeders’ Cup World Championships,” Nov. 3-4, 2023; Lindsay Schanzer, Senior Producer

Feature Television Programming – Woodbine Entertainment: “SECRETARIAT The Last Race,” – Oct. 8, 2023. Airing on TSN (The Sports Network) in Canada. Tammy Gillanders, Producer

Multimedia – TDN Writers’ Room Podcast – “Wade and Carson Jost,” September 20, 2023; Susan Finley, Publisher, Thoroughbred Daily News

Photography – Carolyn Simancik – “Trading Horse Paint,” (Cody’s Wish/National Treasure battle in Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile) The Press Box, Nov. 4, 2023

Award of Merit: Stuart S. Janney III received the Eclipse Award of Merit for outstanding career service to the Thoroughbred industry.

Special Eclipse Award: Tom Hammond received a Special Eclipse Award for Career Excellence.

Horseplayer of the Year: Paul Calia was presented with an Eclipse Award as the 2023 Horseplayer of the Year.