Former New Zealand Group Two winner Circuit Hassler showed on Sunday he is ready to join the general uptick in fortunes at Tony Cruz’s yard and break through for his first local win.

Circuit Hassler was a winner of the 2100m Championship Stakes at Ellerslie – a race which seems to be a rich source of imports for our owners – in his peak performance and was no doubt bought as a Derby horse.

He has, however, looked a constant work in progress in his first year in Hong Kong, with his 10 starts last season turning up a couple of placings but an improving profile towards the end of last season.

In his first start of the new campaign on the weekend, Circuit Hassler dropped into Class Three for the first time and continued that improvement with an effort that might have seen him unlucky not to beat stablemate Beauty Way.

Lucky strike: Sam Clipperton wins his first race for Tony Cruz as Gold Mount surprises at Happy Valley

Circuit Hassler had a good trip through the race until Joao Moreira decided to make an early move around the field on Sergeant Titanium approaching the home straight.

From that point, he needed Sergeant Titanium either to weaken out or go right on with the job so he could get clear but Circuit Hassler didn’t get either and wound up snookered behind horses until the race was nearly over.

He looked full of running right to the finish and was beaten only a length, so there was an argument that he was cost more than that margin. The race itself didn’t look any great form guide with a bunched finish and slow times but Circuit Hassler does look an exception to that view.

Cruz did win the race anyway, with Beauty Way another 2017 Derby purchase just coming to terms with Hong Kong in his second preparation, and the trainer led in a double last week at Happy Valley.

His stable runners are all starting to fire up after an uncharacteristically slow start to the season with five winners in the past two weeks as well as some minor placings, so horseplayers might be on the right track getting on board with Cruz.