JOCKEY John Marshall ran an approving eye over River Verdon in Melbourne yesterday and said: 'He looks absolutely terrific.' Trainer David Hill's retained rider arrived in the Victorian capital after an overnight flight from Hong Kong to round off the local champion's preparations for Saturday's eagerly-awaited Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. Marshall will give him a solid workout today but was happy to underline his trainer's assessment of the rising eight-year-old. 'I know David was extremely happy with him and it is certainly easy to understand why. He looks an absolute picture and appears to relish his new surroundings.' Although he has worked well under the eyes of the local media and other interested parties, River Verdon is still considered an outsider for both the Cox Plate and his major target, the Melbourne Cup. But Marshall is convinced he will run a big race on Saturday over the Cox Plate trip of 2,000 metres. 'He quickens at the end of his races and that's what matters here. I don't think the tight track is that much against him, he's a real athlete. What it will come down to is the change of pace at the end of his race and that's what he has,' stressed Marshall. Any Hong Kong punter seeking a serious bet on River Verdon in the Cox Plate had better get himself accommodated in Melbourne. The local idol will be at unrealistic odds on the local tote at Sha Tin where the Cox Plate will be simulcast on Saturday. Irish hero Vintage Crop is now at as low a quote as 7-2 to retain his Melbourne Cup crown. The price is a real indication of the weakness of the Australian challenge for their own great race and highlights the importance of the Northern Hemisphere challenge.