Eddie Delahoussaye dropped his whip, but Hollywood Wildcat picked up the first-place check, and that's what mattered to Neil Drysdale, the trainer of the 3-year-old filly who beat Paseana, the winner of last year's Distaff, in the 1 1/8-mile race.
With about 20 yards to go, Delahoussaye started to twirl the whip in his right hand, but it got away from him. He slapped Hollywood Wildcat on the neck a few times in the final strides before the wire.
Neither Drysdale nor the owners and breeders of Hollywood Wildcat, Irving and Marjorie Cowan of Hollywood, Fla., noticed Delahoussaye's mistake from their box-seat vantage point.
"I would have had a heart attack if I had seen him drop it," Irving Cowan said.
Said Delahoussaye: "Maybe it wouldn't have made any difference, but it was pretty close. As a professional rider, though, I'm a little embarrassed that it happened. I've dropped a whip before, all jockeys have, but this is the first time it's happened in a million-dollar race."
Delahoussaye also won the Sprint with Cardmania, and Hollywood Wildcat gave him and Drysdale their fourth Breeders' Cup victory together. They previously won with Princess Rooney, Prized and A.P. Indy.
"I guess it's a good thing the filly won," Drysdale said of the dropped whip. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have let Eddie forget it."
Hollywood Wildcat, undefeated in five starts since the Cowans moved the filly from Florida to California this summer, paid $4.60 and was timed in 1:48 1/5. Paseana carried 123 pounds, three more than Hollywood Wildcat.
Hollywood Wildcat tracked Supah Gem in the early stages, moved on the turn for home and then outfinished Paseana. Re Toss, 2 1/2 lengths behind Paseana, finished third. Dispute was fourth, another length back and three-quarters of a length ahead of Sky Beauty, who was shipped in from New York with a five-race winning streak.
Paseana pulled even with Hollywood Wildcat in mid-stretch.
"I thought I put that other filly away," said Paseana's jockey, Chris McCarron, "but she came back and got me."
Trainer Ron McAnally was deprived of his fourth Distaff victory, after winning with Paseana last year and with Bayakoa in 1989-90.
"I thought we had the advantage, because the other filly was on the inside," McAnally said. "The three pounds we had to give the winner didn't help."
Sky Beauty was in sixth place after a half-mile, reached third at the top of the stretch, but then couldn't keep up with Hollywood Wildcat and Paseana.
"I would have liked a little better break," said jockey Mike Smith, who rode Sky Beauty. "When I finally got out where I wanted, it was too late."