LOUISVILLE — They still called her name as she came back to be unsaddled, members of the crowd of 65,143 at Churchill Downs seizing the chance to show their appreciation for Goldikova one last time.
For five seasons, the champion mare has spoiled the racing world with her greatness, racking up a European record for top-level wins and establishing a mark in the Breeders' Cup World Championships that might never be equaled.
But in her last attempt at topping her own standard of excellence, the advances of age and the toll of repeatedly making history was something Goldikova couldn't overcome.
Goldikova's attempt to win an unprecedented fourth straight edition of the Breeders' Cup Mile was stymied Saturday when 64-1 shot Court Vision shot past the 6-year-old mare and then held off Turallure in deep stretch to win the $2 million turf contest by a nose with the three-time champion third.
In earning her previous Mile victories and collecting 14 Grade/Group I wins for her career — nine of which came against males — Goldikova had cemented her all-time great status regardless of what transpired in her final career start. Though she had lost three of five starts this season heading into the Mile, her overwhelming class still made her the 6-5 favorite in the eyes of the betting public against a field that included fellow champion Gio Ponti, and Grade/Group I winners Get Stormy, Turallure, Byword and Sidney's Candy.
Having gone winless in his previous six starts, many had forgotten Court Vision too was a multiple Grade I winner. The 6-year-old gave a timely reminder of his best ability when he rallied from next to last in the 13-horse field with a huge kick to dethrone the reigning queen of the turf.
"Now I don't think she can sustain the same speed," said Freddy Head, trainer of Goldikova. "She does a little thing for only the half then she doesn't seem to be able to follow on that. Maybe the mileage and years have taken their toll."
Court Vision, on the other hand, had his best day just when his career might also be coming to a close.
Previously trained by Richard Dutrow and owned by IEAH Stables, the son of Gulch was purchased privately by Spendthift Farm in late August and transferred to the barn of Dale Romans.
"This is the best he's done since I've been getting on him for two years now," winning jockey Robby Albarado said. "I attribute that to Dale giving him that undivided attention and treating him like the great horse he is."
The dark bay horse hadn't hit the board since winning the 2010 Grade I Woodbine Mile and has been slated to stand at Park Stud in Canada for the 2012 season. With the way he has impressed his new conditioner since running seventh in the latest edition of the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 18, those plans may have to be rethought.
"For the last couple of weeks, he's just been topping himself," Romans said. "He only got beat 3 lengths in Canada, which was the first race off of a longer layoff. He was just moving so good over the racetrack."
After saving ground along the rail in fourth while Get Stormy carved out the opening half in :48.18, jockey Olivier Peslier angled Goldikova hard out into Courageous Cat in the stretch, a move that prompted an objection, which was disallowed shortly after the race.
The duo struck the front in the final furlong but Court Vision was rolling on the far outside under Albarado and had enough momentum to hold off an equally fast-moving Turallure on his flank, finishing in 1:37.05 over a firm course.
"No regrets," said Peslier, who rode Goldikova in all of her 27 starts, guiding her to 17 total wins for career earnings of $7,176,551. "When we came on the turn there was no place to go. But she got through with good acceleration. I am full of emotion. I hope she does well and that someday I will ride her baby."