IRISH champion jockey Mick Kinane belatedly flew into one of the biggest pre-race dramas in the long history of the Melbourne Cup yesterday. As he prepared last night for a quiet pre-Cup dinner with old pal Kevin Moses, the Hong Kong-based world star did not know if his Melbourne Cup ride was even certain to start. Vintage Crop, the Irish St Leger winner who stormed into Australian racing history last year, was still officially a 50-50 chance - or worse - according to trainer Dermot Weld late yesterday. And Hong Kong trainer David Hill, who has been working local hero River Verdon in close proximity to the Irish horse, said: 'I have to say I think it is extremely doubtful that he will start. The leg keeps swelling up and if he does start, he would have to be affected by it.' Kinane is almost as much in the dark as everyone. 'I have spoken to Dermot and there is a worry because there has been swelling which does go down. When he warms up and canters, apparently he is fine. 'My own worry would be very simply just how it has mentally affected the horse. And you cannot know that until the race itself,' said Kinane, as bookmakers eased out the weakening former favourite to a price that might even reach double figures by post-time - if he starts. And on another front, Weld threatened to scratch the horse if there was not extensive watering done to the rock-hard Flemington course. Kinane, whose arrival in Melbourne was delayed for two hours when he had to change planes in Hong Kong, walked the track mid-afternoon as he had done 12 months previously. 'It's very firm, much firmer than Vintage Crop likes it. It's probably harder than last year but then we did have that heavy overnight rain. I might need that to come to my rescue again,' he said. Victoria Racing Club secretary, Les Benton, arranged a late evening meeting between Weld and course manager Ron King. 'We do not want horses to race on this firm surface and that is actually an instruction to clerks of the course in Victoria. But Ron has held off watering because the forecast is for overnight rain. 'But Dermot has an assurance that the taps will be turned on very fully early tomorrow morning if the rain forecast has not materialised,' said Benton. The major scare stories emanating from the Vintage Crop camp have placed betting markets on Cup eve in some confusion but rails bookmakers will be the decisive factor in the horse's final quote. However, he will certainly not go off as favourite and at one time leading pundits here were tipping he would start a 5-2 chance. Trainer Hill and jockey John Marshall continue to be bullish about River Verdon's chances. Hill said: 'He was in superb form this morning and, in fact, I doubt if I have ever seen him better. This is his proper course and he will run a mighty race in the Cup.' At odds of up to 50-1, the Hong Kong champion does looks super value here for a place bet at least. Former Hong Kong-based Brent Thomson is also certain that Quick Ransom will run a mighty race. 'The horse has blossomed, simply bloomed since coming here and getting all this recent sun on his back. We have drawn the right alley and I don't think the track will be against him. 'We can get the run of the race and he will go very close,' said Thomson. Latest betting: 1, Vintage Crop (5-1); 2, River Verdon (40-1); 3, Jeune (8-1); 4, Our Pompeii (25-1); 5, Air Seattle (25-1); 6, Paris Lane (6-1); 7, Hear The Bell (20-1); 8, Quick Ransom (8-1); 9, Oompala (40-1); 10, Top Rating (5-1); 11, Double Take (66-1); 12, Glastonbury (33-1); 13, Gossips (14-1); 14, Alcove (6-1); 15, Gold Sovereign (100-1); 16, Grass Valley (20-1); 17, Oppressor (50-1); 18, Starstruck (14-1); 19, Toll Bell (50-1); 20, Cliveden Gail (12-1); 21, Coachwood (20-1); 22, Major Decision (100-1); 23, Pindi (20-1); 24, Sweet Glory (25-1).