Ben Nevis II played the role of successful favorite to the hilt today, withstanding a driving stretch challenge by Perfect Cast to win the 81st running of the Maryland Hunt Cup by three lengths.

Charlie Fenwick Jr. took Redmond Stewart Jr.'s English-bred chestnut to the top immediately and kept him there throughout 22 jumps of the four-mile timber steeplechase. His time of 8:48.4 bettered Fort Devon's clocking last year by 6.3 seconds. It was 6.4 seconds off Landing Party's record 8:42 in 1971.

Perfect Cast made a determined bid from the 19th jump on, to finish a strong second. Moon Meeting was third and Handsome Daddy fourth.

It was a typical "Maryland," only those four surviving the field of nine tht took the flag before a crowd of more than 8,000.

First to meet disaster was last year's winning rider, Buzz Hannum, who went down with Radford Boy at the third fence. This barrier, the Union Memorial, has taken its toll of at least 24 riders over the years.

The fourth fence eliminated Don Yovanovich on Court Turk and the ninth Mike Plumb on Koolabah. Louis (Paddy) Nielson III, making a determined bid for the lead, went in too close with Kinloch and fell at the 19th.

"He just didn't get his feet down." said Neilson, a two-time winner here. "Our luck just ran out."

The final casualty of the day was Essex II which broke down going into the final jump.

"I never had a race like this before," said a jubilant Fenwick, who won his first Maryland Hunt Cup in five tries. "It was a good fast race and he jumped like a million.

"I took him out in front to stay." added the local rider who also trained the undefeated gelding. "I knew he was as fast as any of them so I made them come to us."