Cody Dorman, the 17-year-old who provided this year’s Breeders’ Cup with its most emotional moment, tragically died on his way home to Kentucky on Sunday.
Dorman was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, an extremely rare chromosomal disorder that affects many body parts. He suffered frequent seizures and was unable to walk or speak, meaning he required a tablet to communicate.
His father, Kelly, estimated that Cody – who would have turned 18 next month – had undergone between 40 and 50 operations during his life, including open-heart surgery.
But he was an avid racing fan and forged a close bond with a young colt during a make-a-wish visit to Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in October 2018.
After he made an instant connection with an unnamed son of Curlin and a Godolphin homebred, the foal was aptly named ‘Cody’s Wish’.
Their bond reached new heights this past weekend at Santa Anita Park when Cody watched his namesake win a second consecutive $1million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
But a statement published by Cody’s family on Monday announced he died during their journey from California back to their home in Kentucky.
It read: ‘We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Cody suffered a medical event on our trip home to Kentucky yesterday and he has passed away.
‘On Saturday, Cody watched his best friend, Cody’s Wish, display his usual perseverance and toughness in winning a second Breeders’ Cup.
‘Those are the same characteristics Cody has showed time and again for the 18 years we were blessed to have him.
‘We have been completely amazed to experience the impact Cody has had on so many people, through the journey that this wondrous racehorse has taken us all on.
‘From Churchill Downs, to Keeneland, to Saratoga to Santa Anita this weekend, we could not move 20 feet without someone stopping to tell us just that.
‘With Cody’s diagnosis at birth, we always knew this day would come, but we were determined to help Cody live his best life for however long we had him.
‘Anyone who has seen him at the racetrack, especially around Cody’s Wish, understands that in many ways he taught us all how to live, always keeping a positive attitude and being more concerned about those around him than himself.’
Cody’s Wish successfully defended his title on Saturday and it is expected to be the final race for the horse, who has won 10 of his 15 career starts and gained widespread public support.
A statement from the Breeders’ Cup read: ‘The entire Breeders’ Cup team is devastated by the news of Cody Dorman’s passing yesterday.
‘His story captured our hearts and minds, and his strength, spirit, and determination were fittingly embodied by his namesake’s commanding performances in his honor.
‘We send our sincere condolences to the Dormans, who gave our sport so much by welcoming us into their family.’