Old Guard continued his progress when springing a minor surprise in the StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham, as he just got the better Willie Mullins' Sempre Medic.

After winning two handicaps on the course this season, the Paul Nicholls-trained four-year-old took the leap up to Grade Two company in his stride.

Peace And Co, last season's unbeaten Triumph Hurdle hero, faded in the closing stages after running far too free and pulling his way to the front after two flights. The 4-5 favourite was well beaten in the end.

That left Old Guard (7-1), Hargam and Sempre Medici to fight out the finish with the first-named battling on valiantly for Sam Twiston-Davies.

He proved a length too strong for Sempre Medici at the line.

Twiston-Davies, winning his third International in a row after two victories with The New One, said: "He's coming up through the ranks and he's progressing well.

"He travelled very well down to the last and when I asked him for everything after it he was very tough.

"He has all the right attributes, and he stays very well, which you need to do to win a Champion Hurdle."