Tony Cruz may have been lauded many times during a celebrated career in the saddle, and has already landed a trainers' title as well. But he won't get many better reviews that the one afforded him by David Price in the wake of the first-up victory of Highlilli in the eighth race yesterday. Highlilli, heavily backed to start a $30.50 favourite, bounced brilliantly from barrier six, followed leader Paobridge to the home turn before accelerating away to win the Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup by 13/4 lengths under a kind but masterful Felix Coetzee ride. 'Full credit to Tony,' said Price, the renowned horse buyer who purchased Highlilli as a yearling in Melbourne on the advice of trainer Russell Cameron. 'I'm amazed. He [Cruz] is so good at what he does ... I don't think there's anyone better at getting these horses prepared for a first-up win. Overall, not many private purchases win at their first starts in Hong Kong but Tony does it all the time. In fact, he's so good at it that it sometime flatters the horse - they are sometimes not quite as good as they seem.' Cruz was humble in victory but did admit the South Australian-bred was 'a progressive horse'. 'He's got nice early speed and it all worked out perfectly for him today. Felix handled him very well and I was pleased with the way he was able to quicken when he was asked,' Cruz said. Highlilli came from David Hayes' Lindsay Park draft as a yearling and was an inexpensive pick-up for Price at the Inglis Autumn Sale in Melbourne. He's a son of Fraar, the Topsider horse who was trained by Hayes to win the 1993 Caulfield Cup in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, before finishing second to Romanee Conti in the Hong Kong Cup the same year. 'The owner had a private purchase permit and this was qualified with his first-up win at Morphettville - he was the right horse at the right time,' Price said. 'Everything just fell perfectly - I guess timing is everything.' Price explained that owners [Mrs and Mrs Nazy el-Azar] are good friends of Silent Witness' owner, Archie da Silva, who made the introduction. 'Everything's gone perfectly and the owners have got a good result,' Price continued. 'They are also involved in the Country Club Syndicate, which races Country Music, so they're having a good run.' And Price's last word: 'Hopefully, the handicapper will realise this was a pretty weak field and only give him about six points for the win.'