Tragedy as 17-year-old racing fan Cody Dorman dies on his way home from the Breeders’ Cup, just a day after watching the horse named after him win the $1 million Dirt Mile in California

  • Cody Dorman, 17, died on his way home to Kentucky after the Breeders’ Cup
  • The horse named after Cody emotionally won the $1 million Dirt Mile in California
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Cody Dorman, the 17-year-old who provided this year’s Breeders’ Cup with its most emotional moment, tragically died Sunday on his way home to Kentucky.

Dorman was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, an extremely rare chromosomal disorder that affects many parts of the body. He suffered frequent seizures and could not walk or talk, meaning he needed a tablet to communicate.

His father, Kelly, estimated that Cody – who would have turned 18 next month – had undergone between 40 and 50 operations in his lifetime, 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 immediately making a connection with an unnamed son of Curlin and a homebred Godolphin, the foal was aptly named “Cody’s Wish.”

Cody Dorman (lower center right) and his family celebrate after eponymous horse Cody’s Wish won Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile race

Jockey Junior Alvarado guided Cody's Wish to his second consecutive $1 million Dirt Mile win

Jockey Junior Alvarado guided Cody’s Wish to his second consecutive $1 million Dirt Mile victory

Their bond reached new heights last weekend at Santa Anita Park as Cody watched his namesake win the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for the second consecutive year.

But in a statement released Monday by Cody’s family, it was announced that he died during their trip 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 yesterday during our trip to Kentucky and passed away.

“On Saturday, Cody watched his best friend, Cody’s Wish, show his usual perseverance and toughness in winning a second Breeders’ Cup.

“Those are the same traits that Cody has demonstrated time and time again in the 18 years we were blessed with him.

“We are completely amazed at the impact Cody has had on so many people throughout the journey this wonderful racehorse has taken us all on.

“From Churchill Downs, to Keeneland, to Saratoga to Santa Anita this weekend, we couldn’t go twenty feet without someone stopping to tell us.

Cody and the young colt bonded during his visit to Godolphin's Gainsborough Farm in 2018

Cody and the young colt bonded during his visit to Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in 2018

Cody's parents Kelly and Leslie released a heartbreaking statement announcing his death

Cody’s parents Kelly and Leslie released a heartbreaking statement announcing his death

Breeders' Cup said they were 'devastated' and Cody's story captured their 'hearts and minds'

Breeders’ Cup said they were ‘devastated’ and Cody’s story captured their ‘hearts and minds’

“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 on the track, especially around Cody’s Wish, understands that in many ways he taught us how to live life, always keep a positive attitude and be more concerned about the people around him than himself.”

Cody’s Wish successfully defended its 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 won 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 appropriately embodied by his namesake’s impressive achievements in his honor.

“We extend our sincere condolences to the Dormans, who have given so much to our sport by welcoming us into their family.”