Cody’s Wish much the best in G1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap | Belmont Stakes
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Jun 10, 2023
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Cody’s Wish much the best in G1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap

by Keith McCalmont

Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Cody’s Wish rallied into contention through the turn under Junior Alvarado and drew off impressively to capture Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, at Belmont Park.

In victory, the 5-year-old Curlin bay provided his Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott a first win in the one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up, while garnering a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Santa Anita Park.

"I thought he had a possibility of being a good horse before we ever ran him. It took us a couple of races to get him going in the right direction and to get him educated enough to where he knew how to use his run. He’s finally figured it out," said Mott, who saddled the reigning Champion Male Sprinter Elite Power to victory in the Grade 2 True North earlier on the card.

Cody’s Wish was off a step slow from the inside post as Slow Down Andy, Dr. Schivel and Hoist the Gold battled for the lead through an opening quarter-mile in 22.76 seconds over the fast main track.

The Irad Ortiz, Jr.-piloted Dr. Schivel emerged as the leader down the backstretch, racing between his two rivals, with Repo Rocks and White Abarrio, who stumbled at the break, settled in a stalking position as the half-mile elapsed in 45.86 with Hoist the Gold now holding a narrow advantage.

Cody’s Wish was next-to-last approaching the turn but when Zandon made his run, Alvarado angled the reigning Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile-winner off the rail and made a looping rally around his rivals to take command late in the turn. Cody’s Wish continued to find more in the stretch run, securing the 3 1/4-length score in a final time of 1:34.36.

Zandon closed to complete the exacta by a head over White Abarrio with Charge It, Dr. Schivel, Slow Down Andy, Repo Rocks, Hoist the Gold, and Doppelganger rounding out the order of finish.

It was the sixth consecutive score for Cody’s Wish and ninth win in his last 10 for the storybook horse, who added yet another chapter to the fairy tale career he has put together since debuting in June 2021. The impressive run of form includes wins last year in the Grade 3 Westchester here and the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga Race Course ahead of his Breeders’ Cup coup at Keeneland. He entered from a facile score in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs on May 6 in his seasonal debut.

The bay horse was named for Cody Dorman, a teenager with the rare genetic disorder Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Dorman visited Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, K.Y. via the Make a Wish program when Cody’s Wish was an unnamed foal and was introduced to the curious colt while touring the farm. The colt showed a profound patience, gentleness and connection with the wheelchair-bound Dorman, touching the hearts of all on the farm and leading Godolphin to name the foal after his new friend.

“It’s as heartwarming for me as it is for the fans watching,” Mott said. “I had a lot of people tell me what a great story this is. For sure, it’s a great story, but it goes along with a good horse.”

Dorman’s father, Kelly, was in attendance for Saturday’s eye-catching score.

“Cody wasn’t here, but he was here. I brought his bowtie [and] had it made special for the Breeders’ Cup. He’s worn it every race since then,” Dorman said. “He’s watching everything on T.V. right now back in our hometown of Columbia, Kentucky with all our family and friends. One thing I can say is we feel the support of everybody, not just our family and friends, but everybody in these stands that’s stopped us [to give well wishes]. We feel that big hand on our backs saying, ‘you’re not going to fall, we’re not going to let you down.’

“It’s magical what he has between him and that horse,” Dorman continued. “He [Cody] said he was going to win, he told me this week. I asked him so many times just to be sure. I asked him so much, he even said, ‘stop’ [laughs]. You can’t doubt him, you can’t doubt the horse, you can’t doubt the power of the love they have between each other. I never dreamed the tallest person I would ever know didn’t have legs like you or I do or a voice as loud as what he does, and he can’t speak like you and I. But he says it all and he walks tall.”

Alvarado, aboard for all of the current six-race win streak, said he knew he had to find his way off the rail.

“At about the half-mile pole, I found my seam, moved behind the heels of horses to get into the clear, then he turned everything on,” Alvarado said. “Then, I just had to get out of his way and let him do his thing. He's unbelievable.

"The key with him has always been the turn. He picks off a lot of horses there,” Alvarado added. “His ability to move well in the turn helped us today. We took advantage of the big sweeping turn at Belmont and it worked out unbelievably.”

Jeff Drown’s Zandon, piloted by Flavien Prat for trainer Chad Brown, has now hit the board in 5-of-6 Grade 1 attempts, led by a win in last year’s Blue Grass at Keeneland.

“He ran fine. The winner was much the best. He’s a super-impressive horse. I’m real proud of my horse,” Brown said. “He got collared there by a real salty horse in White Abarrio and battled back for second. The fact that he did that proves to me that his best races are probably around two turns moving forward.”

Brown said Zandon could target the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course.

“That’s probably where I’m going to point him towards,” Brown said. “I’ll talk to the owner Jeff Drown. It’ll be a tough race, but all things considered, if he’s sound, I’ll take my chances.”

Cody’s Wish banked $550,000 in victory while improving his record to 13-9-1-3. He returned $3.30 for a $2 win bet.

Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont with an 11-race card, featuring the $150,000 Astoria in Race 2, the $150,000 Jersey Girl in Race 5, the $150,000 Tremont in Race 9 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Wonder Again in Race 10. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

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