The Horse, Trainer and Jockey to Watch at Saratoga Race Course This Season

Photo by Alex Zhang

Horse To Watch: Cody’s Wish

Cody’s Wish is arguably the best racehorse in America right now. A 5-year-old bred and owned by Godolphin and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Cody’s Wish is riding a six-race win streak and has lost only once in his past 10 starts. The current string of victories features four consecutive Grade 1s: the Forego last August at Saratoga, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland, the Churchill Downs Stakes, and the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park. The Forego was one of the highlights of the 2022 Saratoga meet. At odds of 8-1, Cody’s Wish defeated the heavy favorite Jackie’s Warrior, the only horse to win a Grade 1 at Saratoga in three consecutive years, by 1¼ lengths.

Sired by Hall of Famer Curlin out of the Grade 1–winning Tapit mare Dance Card, Cody’s Wish was bred to be a star. After beginning his career in 2021 by finishing third in three consecutive races, Cody’s Wish has won all but one race since, compiling an overall record of 9-1-3 from 13 starts with earnings of $2,328,530. He has been training sharply at Saratoga since May, and his most recent performance—a brilliant 3¼-length victory June 9 in the Met Mile—sets him up as the horse to watch at Saratoga this summer. Mott said Cody’s Wish is under consideration to stretch out in the Whitney Stakes and could also take aim at another victory in the Forego.

Trainer To Watch: Wesley Ward

As of May, trainer Wesley Ward had won 30 percent of his races in 2023. (Brien Bouyea)

A former champion jockey, Wesley Ward has emerged in recent years as one of the top trainers in the sport. After winning 749 races in the saddle and the 1984 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice, Ward transitioned to conditioning racehorses in 1991. He has steadily climbed the ranks while winning more than 2,200 races as a trainer. Ward has enjoyed success both in the United States and England, where he has won a dozen races at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting, more than any other American-based trainer. Ward has also won nine training titles at Keeneland and has six Breeders’ Cup wins to his credit. At Saratoga, he finished in the top 10 in both wins and earnings in 2022.

Ward’s best horse to date has been two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Golden Pal, who won stakes races three consecutive years at Saratoga. Last year, Ward won his first Saratoga Grade 1 with Chi Town Lady in the Test. He also won the Grade 2 Honorable Miss with Kimani and the Grade 3 Troy with Golden Pal. Ward is having another exceptional year in 2023. Through May, he is winning a career-best 30 percent of his races, the highest rate among the top 25 trainers in the country. 

Jockey To Watch: Jose Gomez

Jose Gomez was the leading apprentice rider at NYRA tracks in 2022. (Brien Bouyea)

With riders including the Ortiz brothers, Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Javier Castellano, and standouts such as Joel Rosario, Luis Saez, Flavien Prat, Manny Franco, Tyler Gaffalione, Junior Alvarado and Dylan Davis, among others, the jockey colony on the New York Racing Association circuit is generally considered to be the best in the country. None of that intimidated young apprentice rider Jose Gomez last summer at Saratoga. 

Gomez, a 22-year-old native of Michigan who grew up in Pennsylvania, finished 2022 as the leading apprentice rider at the NYRA tracks and was ninth in the overall jockey standings. He won 98 races in New York last year, including 11 at Saratoga, with total purse earnings of $5.8 million. Gomez won three stakes in New York, including the Statue of Liberty aboard Golden Rocket in August at Saratoga, the first black-type stakes victory of his career. 

Gomez is quick to give significant credit for his success to agent and mentor Angel Cordero, Jr., the Hall of Fame jockey who won 14 riding titles at Saratoga, as well as trainer Kelly Breen, who has also been a big supporter. In early 2023, Gomez was rewarded for his success by being honored with the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. Having proven himself capable of competing successfully on the big stage at Saratoga, the future appears bright for Gomez. 

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