This time, there will be no triumphant comeback.
The nearly flawless, champion mare Zenyatta was officially retired Wednesday when it was announced she would be boarded at Mr. and Mrs. William S. Farish's Lane's End Farm, arriving in early December.
Breeding plans have not been finalized.
Zenyatta's career ended on a bittersweet note when she lost by a head to multiple Grade I winner Blame in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. It was her only loss in 20 career starts.
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, along with trainer John Shirreffs, had strongly indicated before the Breeders' Cup that the Classic would be her final career outing.
"As a trainer you have to learn to let go," Shirreffs said the morning after the Breeders' Cup. "Heck, she's been a champion for three years and she's going to a great place."
Though she lost her quest to retire undefeated, Zenyatta has cemented her status as one of the all-time greats.
Included in her 19 wins are 13 Grade I triumphs, including her win over males in the 2009 Classic at Santa Anita Park and a win in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Her career earnings of $7,304,580 are a North American record for a female racehorse.
In six races this season, Zenyatta racked up five more Grade I triumphs, winning the Vanity Handicap, Clement L. Hirsch, and Lady's Secret each for a third consecutive time.
"She probably provided me with the most incredible moment I've experienced on the racetrack, and that's saying a lot," said Bill Farish of Lane's End, who is also chairman of Breeders' Cup Ltd. "Her Breeders' Cup Classic last year was a very emotional moment. She really has transcended the sport. She's become an icon."
Her 19 consecutive victories made Zenyatta into a superstar, but it was her distinctive attitude on and off the track that helped make her one of the most beloved figures the sport has seen in recent decades.
Blessed with a massive 17-plus hand frame, Zenyatta had the demeanor of a gentle giant, never turning a hair even as fans lined the fence around her barn and shouted her name as she entered the paddock.
The dressage-like strut she engaged in prior to her races became as much a staple as her late-running style. And with the exception of her final stretch run in the Classic, she always managed to find the wire even when she looked hopelessly beaten.
"She's from the stars," Ann Moss said when Zenyatta arrived at Churchill for the Breeders' Cup. "She's so kind and spectacular from every aspect and she's so kind to everybody. We're very blessed to have this horse to begin with."
With two Eclipse Awards for champion older female already on her mantle and a third one certain to come this season, the one accolade Zenyatta has not earned is Horse of the Year.
Whether she beats Blame this year is yet to be determined. Her impact on racing, however, is not up for debate.
"As far as I'm concerned, she's brought the sport back," jockey Mike Smith, who guided Zenyatta in all but three of her career starts, said prior to the Breeders' Cup. "She's carrying it on her back and she's big enough to handle it. You wouldn't believe the letters I get every single day from 6-year-old little girls to 80-year-old men. It's just wild."