You are here

Cody’s Wish takes Horse of the Year title at 2023 Eclipse Awards

Cody’s Wish created another piece of history as he became the first Godolphin horse to be crowned Horse of the Year at the 2023 Eclipse Awards on Thursday, 25 January.

Godolphin’s brilliant year in North America was acknowledged throughout the evening’s ceremony, with the operation receiving five Eclipse Awards in addition to Cody’s Wish picking up the 2023 FanDuel Racing-NTRA Moment of the Year.

Cody’s Wish showcased his brilliance across his five-year-old season, winning four of his five starts including scintillating displays in the Churchill Downs Stakes and Met Mile.

Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Junior Alvarado on all 16 lifetime starts, the Curlin entire ended his racing career with a resolute defence of his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile title, a performance that was voted the 2023 FanDuel Racing-NTRA Moment of the Year.

The five-time G1 winner retired at the end of the season to take up stallion duties at Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Kentucky.

Outstanding on the track, Cody’s Wish gained significant recognition within racing and the wider public due to the unique bond he shared with Cody Dorman. The Curlin colt was named after Cody, who was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, after the two met at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in 2018.

Cody Dorman was in the winner’s circle for many of the horse’s victories, alongside his parents Kelly and Leslie and sister Kylie, and the Dorman family formed an integral part of the remarkable journey that Cody and Cody’s Wish experienced. Sadly, Cody passed away the day after watching Cody’s Wish win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

An emotional Kelly Dorman accepted the award and said: “You’ll never hear Tom Hanks say there is no crying in horseracing! I never would have dreamed five years ago, when all of this happened, that I would be standing right here doing this. The wonderful people we have met.

“I hope that you have a TV in front of the stall at Jonabell because I want to thank Cody’s Wish for everything he has done. You guys blow me away because I know that you put your heart in these horses, it’s your life day in and day out. I know a lot of the time those horses put their heart into you – jockeys, trainers, owners, everybody. That horse put his heart into us.

“Thank you to Godolphin, Bill, Junior, the best little sister in the world and the best wife and mother in the world too. One of the best things to come out of this, other than the grit and determination that we got to watch Cody’s Wish run with, I think he got that honestly when they gave him his name. Can’t and quit are two words that we have never used and never will. Horses can’t talk, but he can, and he won’t use those two words either.

“It’s such an honour to be here to accept this on behalf of Godolphin, Cody’s Wish and everybody else. I want to let you guys know how much it means. The fans who come up to us and let us know how much the story behind a wonderful horse means, and the wonderful people that we have gotten to meet through this, the connections we have made. It puts a smile on our faces day in, day out. Thank you for everything you do.”

Cody’s Wish also received the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Dirt Male and Gainsborough Farm manager Danny Mulvihill, who was responsible for the first meeting between the horse and Cody Dorman, was presented with the award.

Danny Mulvihill said: “Thank you to everyone who voted and the biggest thank you goes to Cody’s Wish, he’s the one who showed up every day and the key player in all this. A big thank you to Bill Mott and his team for the training job that you guys did throughout the year and to Junior for some masterful rides, particularly his last day out.

“For me, this is probably the best horse that I have ever had the privilege of working with. I have been lucky enough to have seen him grow from the day he was born, right up until we got Cody involved, which I think gave us a huge boost. A lot of credit for this past year goes to two of our key decision makers, Dan Pride and Michael Banahan, for deciding to keep the horse in training for another year. The easier decision would have been to retire him, so well done and thank you for that.”

Pretty Mischievous collected the Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Award. Trained by Brendan Walsh, the Into Mischief homebred posted three top-level wins in 2023, including a first success for Godolphin in the Kentucky Oaks.

Godolphin USA’s Bloodstock Director Michael Banahan said: “Consistency and brilliance are the hallmarks that Pretty Mischievous has shown to us, and she was such a wonderful filly all year long. As brilliant as she is, what Brendan and his team will have seen is how expressive she is and that’s how she got into the hearts of all the people who looked after her and were lucky enough to be on her athletic journey.

“The first Friday in May was a watershed moment for Godolphin and for our founder Sheikh Mohammed when Pretty Mischievous provided us with our first Kentucky Oaks. A special thanks to Brendan and his team for making 2023 such a special year for Pretty Mischievous and a big thank you to Tyler [Gaffalione] for showing his great skill in the saddle and forging this perfect partnership with her.

“Pretty Mischievous has gone back to Brendan’s base in Palm Meadows recently and we are looking forward to a big 2024 with her. Hopefully, we will be standing up here again next year.”

Godolphin took both the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder Awards for a third consecutive year, testament to a campaign that yielded over US$17m in owner prizemoney and 12 G1 wins, all achieved by homebred horses.

On receiving the Outstanding Owner Award, Michael Banahan said: “It’s a very special win for Godolphin and our founder Sheikh Mohammed. He has laid the foundations to be able to win the Owner Eclipse Award for an unprecedented seventh time, including four consecutive wins.

“It takes a village to compete and succeed at the highest level, so many thanks to our unbelievable staff in Kentucky and to our trainers Mike Stidham, Eoin Harty, Bill Mott, Brad Cox and Brendan Walsh, and the assistance we receive from our European trainers Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor.

“A big thanks to our jockeys who have ridden our horses brilliantly – Tyler Gaffalione, Junior Alvarado, Flavien Prat, William Buick and Oisin Murphy, who rode our 12 G1 winners.

Gerry Duffy, Operations Manager, Godolphin USA, collected the Outstanding Owner Award and said: “I’d like to thank all of tonight’s organisers, the sponsors and those who voted for Godolphin.

“Most of all, I would like to pay homage to our team. As Michael alluded to, it takes a village and it doesn’t matter the role – our vets, farriers, vendors, the broader Godolphin family. One of the greatest joys I get is being part of that team and seeing first-hand the passion, commitment and love of the horse that all our people bring with them every day. This one is for the team, so well done guys, and thank you for your support.”