There was no clear round over the marathon course of 16 fences, the top two horses having made a single error - Alfredo at the middle of the troublesome Devil's Dyke and the big grey mare Cloudy Night at the last fence of all. Maher's trainer, Steven Smith, had advised him to set "a nice pace" and, after Alfredo went clear again, Stockdale had to concede defeat when Cloudy Night erred at the third of the jump-off fences.
Though disappointed at finishing runner-up, Stockdale was gracious in defeat. "Ben's a very good jockey and one for the future," he said. "I've always admired the way he works."
Maher had acquired Alfredo during the two years he spent in Switzerland with international rider Beat Mandli. "It took me a while to learn how to ride him," Maher said. Last year he finished third with a single time-fault, which had not gone unnoticed with those who backed Alfredo at 5-1.
Chloe Bunn shared third place with two first-round errors on Buddy Bunn, with whom John Whitaker triumphed last year.
Bunn, to the relief of her father Douglas Bunn, the owner of Hickstead, jumped a polished round on the strong homebred horse.Reuse content