Cody's Wish , the gutsy 5-year-old winner of four of five stakes races this year and beloved equine pal to the late Cody Dorman, has been voted the first back-to-back winner of the Secretariat Vox Populi Award.
Secretariat's owner Penny Chenery created the award in 2010 to annually recognize the racehorse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the public and gained recognition for the sport.
Cody's Wish's story is inextricably linked with that of his namesake, Cody Dorman, who lived courageously with a rare genetic disorder and passed away on Nov. 5, just six weeks shy of his 18th birthday and only a day after witnessing Cody's Wish battle to a nose victory in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
Representatives of the Cody's Wish team will return to Santa Anita Park on Jan. 13 for the Vox Populi Award trophy presentation as part of the day's activities.
Owned by Godolphin, trained by Bill Mott, and ridden by Junior Alvarado, Cody's Wish won the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1), Metropolitan Handicap (G1), Vosburgh Stakes (G2), and, for the second straight year, the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He also placed third in the Whitney Stakes (G1).
Beyond his victories and grit on the track, it was the horse's connection to Cody Dorman that elicited widespread admiration and affection from fans.
"Cody's Wish embodies all that the Secretariat Vox Populi Award represents. He has wowed us with his performances on the racetrack and touched countless people's hearts with his profound connection with Cody Dorman," said Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat's late owner Penny Chenery. "In this 50th anniversary year of Secretariat's Triple Crown, it is inspiring to see the twin legacies of Cody and Cody's Wish honored through this award."
For five years, Cody's Wish and Cody Dorman shared a unique connection, beginning with their first encounter in 2018 at Godolphin's Gainsborough Farm, a visit made possible by Keeneland's Make-A-Wish Day. Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome had relegated the then-12-year-old Cody to a wheelchair and rendered him unable to speak. An inquisitive 5-month-old foal—by leading sire Curlin out of the Tapit mare Dance Card—was introduced to Cody and put his head in the boy's lap. With that, the bay colt earned his name: Cody's Wish.
Over the next few years, a number of such sweet interactions occurred and the special rapport between the two continued to their earthly end—Cody's Wish ran his final race on Nov. 4 and Cody Dorman passed the next day—but their bond endures for those who know their story, beginning with Cody's family:
"We want to thank everyone who voted for Cody's Wish to help him achieve his second consecutive Vox Populi Award," wrote Cody Dorman's father Kelly, mother Leslie and sister Kylie in a special message (below). "The feeling of amazement and happiness has never changed from the first moment we met Cody's Wish to this day and beyond. Seeing his performances on the track and his enduring love for Cody in person will be branded into our hearts forever."
A fifth-generation great-grandson of Secretariat, Cody's Wish twice has earned the award that bears his forefather's name and represents the vox populi, Latin for "voice of the people."
The owners of Cody's Wish shared their appreciation as well. "Everyone at Team Godolphin is honored to see Cody's Wish voted by the fans as the winner of the 2023 Vox Populi Award. Both Cody's Wish's achievements on the racetrack and his relationship with Cody Dorman have touched the lives of so many both inside and outside of the industry. It has been an incredible journey and one we were delighted to share with Cody and his family. We are looking forward to seeing what Cody's Wish can do in his second career in the breeding shed. Thank you to the Secretariat team, the Chenery family, and to everyone that voted for Cody's Wish."
Retiring with 11 wins in 16 starts and career earnings of $3,106,030, Cody's Wish will stand stud for a fee of $75,000 at Godolphin's Jonabell Farm, home of Darley's American stallions in Lexington, Ky.
Nominees for the award were submitted by the Vox Populi committee, comprised of distinguished personalities from within and outside the racing industry. Voters also had the option to write in their own favorite candidate to recognize other exceptional horses.
In winning the Vox Populi Award last year, Cody's Wish joined the celebrated roster of racing stars who had received it previously: Hot Rod Charlie (2021), Authentic (2020), Bricks and Mortar (2019), Winx (2018), Ben's Cat (2017), California Chrome (2016 and 2014), American Pharoah (2015), Mucho Macho Man (2013), Paynter (2012), Rapid Redux (2011), and inaugural winner Zenyatta (2010).
A Message From the Dorman Family
"We want to thank everyone who voted for Cody's Wish to help him achieve his second consecutive Secretariat Vox Populi Award, with a special thank you to the late Penny Chenery and all involved with continuing the legacy of Secretariat for creating such a meaningful award for the equine community.
The feeling of amazement and happiness has never changed from the first moment we met Cody's Wish to this day and beyond. Seeing his performances on the track and his enduring love for Cody in person will be branded into our hearts forever.
Some of the biggest blessings from this story have come from meeting so many wonderful people from all walks of life, fans, and people we now call friends. We never tire of hearing from each of you about how much Cody's Wish and his connection to Cody has meant to you. Each of you reminds us of that, warming our hearts and making us so proud of what an exceptional horse Cody's Wish is, on and off the track.
From the moment Cody's Wish laid his head in Cody's lap, we knew that wherever he went from there, he would always be running for Cody. But as time passed, the story of these two grew bigger. It became evident that Cody's Wish ran for more than just Cody. He ran for all of us. He ran for every child and adult who had unimaginable challenges in their lives. He ran for everyone who believed in him and others who doubted him. He put so much of the world on his back and helped us see that we can conquer obstacles, too, no matter how big. That perseverance was something to dwell on. He did all that with Cody, who already believed this by his every stride.
But the most important place Cody's Wish ever ran was into our hearts. We don't know about everyone else, but he ran to a place in our hearts, a new place in the very center of our hearts that will always remind us how powerful love and happiness are bigger than anything we'll ever face. And he showed us all that, from his first stall to his last finish line.
God bless you, Cody's Wish, and God bless you, friends. Thank you so much for supporting Cody's Wish and enjoying the ride.
See you at the track!"
—Kelly, Leslie, Kylie and always and forever Cody DormanThis press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.