One more stride. That's all she needed. If anything, however, Zenyatta's first defeat last night served to complete the legend, rather than diminish it. Making her 20th and (almost certainly) final start in the Breeders' Cup Classic, she failed by bare inches to catch Blame. But to get so close left no doubt of her greatness.
History had already been made by another mare, Goldikova becoming the first horse to win three Breeders' Cup races by accelerating nearly two lengths clear of Gio Ponti in the Mile.
Few among the 72,000 gathered to witness Zenyatta make history retained the remotest hope that she could win as the field passed the stands for the first time. She was detached by some eight lengths at the rear, Mike Smith anxiously urging her forward. Racing on an unfamiliar dirt surface, she was plainly resenting the kickback. It looked as though she might tail off completely.
Gradually, however, she began to work her way forwards and in the stretch she was suddenly in full cry. It really did seem as though she might just pull it off, but then their noses flashed through the photo-finish beam, and Blame had held on by a head, the pair clear.
Smith was inconsolable. He said: "I truly believe I was on the best horse, and if I have to blame anyone it would be me. She's my everything. Hats off to Blame – I needed him to falter, but he hung tough."
In the Mile, Goldikova did secure her place in history, while Paco Boy ended his career with a strong finish in fourth, but Goldikova's ownershad "absolutely no idea" at thisstage whether she might remain in training.
Freddie Head, her trainer, evoked the memory of Miesque, who won this race twice for him in his riding days. "I was the first jockey to win this race twice, with a mare, and now I'm the trainer of a mare winning it three times," he said. "Even in the worst soap opera, you can't imagine anything like that."
Christophe Clement, trainer of Gio Ponti, saluted the French mare as "the best miler we've seen for a long, long time, a freak."
The sole British winner of the meeting was Dangerous Midge, who made the most of Workforce's defection from the Turf (on account of the firm ground) to vindicate Brian Meehan's judgement twice over – first for bringing a horse who had finished eighth in the Ebor, and also for gambling on a pair of blinkers.
Meehan, who won this race with Red Rocks in 2006, was indebted to an alert ride from Frankie Dettori, who kept Dangerous Midge handy to a steady pace before galvanizing him as the leader stole a march into the straight. "It's just going to get bigger and better with this horse," Meehan promised.