Cody's Wish opened Saturday's nine-race Breeders' Cup slate in dramatic style, charging from last to beat front-running Preakness winner National Treasure in a photo finish for the Dirt Mile.
It was an emotional repeat for trainer Bill Mott and jockey Junior Alvarado in the $1 million race, the final outing for the horse that bonded as a foal with namesake Cody Dorman, who was born with a genetic disorder that has left him unable to walk or speak.
Alvarado was wiping away tears even as stewards reviewed video of contact between Cody's Wish and National Treasure in the final yards, eventually upholding their one-two finish.
"A great story, it's a great story, an inspiration for a lot of people," Mott said. "To see what it has done for Cody Dorman and his family and a lot of people around him."
Saturday's races, part of a 14-race, $31 million 40th anniversary edition of the thoroughbred extravaganza, also featured a formidable renewal of the $4 million 1 1/2-mile Turf and the $6 million Classic.
Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien was going for a seventh win in the Turf with Auguste Rodin, winner of the Epsom and Irish derbies as well as the Irish Champion Stakes.
Auguste Rodin leads a strong European contingent that also includes group one winners Mostahdaf and King of Steel.
Aiming to hold off the European raiders is the Todd Pletcher-trained Up to the Mark, a three-time grade one winner this year.
The Classic, in contrast, was somewhat short on star power, with none of this year's US Triple Crown winners in the field.
Arcangelo, winner of the Belmont Stakes, was scratched on Tuesday with a hoof issue. Kentucky Derby winner Mage was pulled because of a fever that prevented the horse from travelling to California.
Amid the defections Arabian Knight has emerged as the early favorite in the 1 1/4-mile race, with Bob Baffert liking the chances of the lightly raced colt, provided he does't get into a speed duel with Brad Cox's Saudi Crown.
But the wide open field had plenty predicting Ushba Tesoro, the Dubai World Cup winner trained by Noboru Takagi could give Japan a breakthrough Classic triumph.
In other early races, Inspiral -- under a masterful ride by Frankie Dettori -- swept past Warm Heart in the final strides to continue foreign dominance in the 1 1/4-mile, $2 million Filly & Mare Turf.
Dettori, who at 52 has ditched his retirement plans in favor of continuing his career in the United States, steered Inspiral out of traffic to position her perfectly for a run as they rounded the final turn.
Inspiral, already a five-time Group One winner before arriving at Santa Anita, reeled in Aidan O'Brien-trained Warm Heart, with Ryan Moore in the irons, to win by a neck.
"She's temperamental but she's very, very good and she's proved it today that she can do it on the other side of the world," said Dettori, who notched a 15th Breeders' Cup win.