Zarkandar showed plenty of guts to cap a great day for Paul Nicholls with victory in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

In receipt of 4lb from the current champion hurdler Rock On Ruby and Grandouet, winner of this race last year, he was sent off the 6-5 favourite to give Nicholls a fifth winner on the afternoon.

Ruby Walsh was the first of the big three to come under pressure, with Noel Fehily and Barry Geraghty trying to conserve energy on Rock On Ruby and Grandouet respectively as they were both having their first run of the season.

In testing ground and up the famous hill it was Zarkandar who toughed it out, beating Grandouet, who ran a fine race on his first start for 12 months, by two lengths with Rock On Ruby fading late in the day.