Happy Birthday, Cody

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Cody’s Wish greets Cody Dorman’s family on a snowy day in Lexington this week. Paul Halloran Photo.

When Cody Dorman got his tablet just before Christmas six years ago, one of the first times he used it to communicate he asked his mother, Leslie, to bring him to the window so he could watch the snow.

“Cody loved the snow,” Kelly Dorman said Monday, outside the stallion barn at Jonabell Farm in Lexington, with a light snow falling, as if sent by Cody.

About 50 of the Dormans’ family and friends gathered Monday to commemorate Cody’s 18th birthday, only 43 days after he passed away on the way home from the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park. It was part-birthday party, part-celebration of life – and all special.

“He’d have been proud out here today,” said Dan Pride, chief operation officer of Godolphin USA, which continued its amazingly munificent treatment of the Dormans by hosting the gathering.

Cody’s Wish, who has joined Darley’s all-star stallion lineup at Jonabell, was led out of his spacious stall and brought outside, where the wind was howling and the snow intensified. OK, Cody, we get it, but enough with the snow already.

Six weeks after ending his tremendous career with a second straight win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Cody’s Wish looked the picture of health. Had he been standing in the paddock at Keeneland a few miles away before a Grade 1 race, you’d have expected no less an authority on horse flesh than Maggie Wolfendale to deem him the most likely winner.

“He’s settled in nicely. He’s a happy boy,” said Graham Lovatt, the affable stallion manager at Jonabell.

The champion racehorse turned stallion looked especially pleased when Kylie Dorman – the world’s greatest little sister – fed him an oversized cupcake. Happy Birthday to you, too, Cody.

Lovatt reported that Cody’s Wish has been brought to the breeding shed – call it a test run – and passed with flying colors

“He’s such a pleasure to work with,” Lovatt said. “He’s a true professional in the breeding shed already.”

That will come as good news for those who have reserved a date for their mare, at the introductory fee of $75,000.

“We had an open house with more than 1,000 visitors,” Lovatt said. “His book is full.”

Cody’s Wish takes in the scene at Jonabell Farm. Paul Halloran Photo.

Breeding season begins February 14 – of course.

Cody’s Wish has quite the impressive list of new roommates, including Medaglia d’Oro, Street Sense, Hard Spun, Essential Quality, Nyquist, Frosted, Mystic Guide, Frosted, Midshipman, Speaker’s Corner, Proxy and Enticed.

Speaker’s Corner is actually a bit player in the Cody’s Wish story. Godolphin’s original plan was for him to run in the 2022 Forego Stakes at Saratoga and to ship Cody’s Wish to Del Mar for the Pat O’Brien Stakes. Trainer Bill Mott called an audible, Cody’s Wish upset heavy favorite Jackie’s Warrior in the Forego and the story of Cody and Cody went national.

It is a story that has captured the hearts of virtually everyone in racing and many who do not have their TVs tuned to FanDuel at all hours. Godolphin brought Cody’s Wish back to race as a 5-year-old and he was nearly perfect, a loss in the 9-furlong Whitney the only blemish in a five-race campaign. His breathtaking last-to-first run in the Met Mile was arguably the best of his career, the two Breeders’ Cups notwithstanding.

Cody got to see his namesake run at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard, Saratoga for the Whitney and Santa Anita for the Dirt Mile November 4. That capped a magical week for Cody, who spent four straight days at the racetrack, a place where he was most in his element.

Cody’s Wish made his patented closing run in the Dirt Mile, barely beating a loose-on-an-easy-lead National Treasure to win by a nose, then surviving a seven-minute inquiry after some contact in the stretch. Alas, there was a happy ending as the result stood. Cody’s Wish went out a winner.

Only 24 hours later, Cody did the same, dropping off to sleep on a flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta and never waking up. It was a shocker, even though his family lived with that possibility every day of the 17 years and 11 months they had Cody.

Once you got past the raw grief, it became sadly appropriate and entirely understandable that Cody would stick around just long enough to see his best friend go out on top.

Cody’s Wish’s work – at least on the racetrack – was done. Cody Dorman’s work here was done, too. One left a legacy of a champion equine, who many consider a slight favorite to become Godolphin’s first Horse of the Year when the Eclipse Awards are presented January 25. The other left a legacy of a champion young man, who could not speak yet his message of unparalleled courage was heard loud and clear.

Together, they formed as dynamic a duo as horse racing has seen in recent memory, if not ever.

As Cody’s Wish sized up the crowd that included renowned sculptor Jocelyn Russell –

whose incredible Secretariat statue made the rounds this summer – taking measurements for a potential project, one woman said, “I think he’s looking for Cody.”

Neither he nor the rest of us could see him, but there is no doubt Cody was there.