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FINAL HAND STORY

Breaking new ground

Dan Stephens gets stuck into this month’s quirkier betting options. Fancy making a mint on the Mercury, backing the next Bond girl, or putting your footy reputation on the line with a bet on Michael Owen? Step right this way.

Mercury Music Prize

It seems that this year’s sound is ambiguously attractive girls who make a lot of interesting musical sounds but don’t really have the talent to write genuinely good songs. In this vein we see bookmaker Paddy Power name artists Florence and the Machine and Bat for Lashes as favourites for the Mercury Music Prize.

Florence Welch and her band are currently riding on a wave of hype having just released Lungs, their debut album. At odds of 3/1 the London-based group are strong contenders, despite the relative speed at which they have been propelled into the mainstream.

Natasha Khan, better known as Bat for Lashes is not far behind in the stakes and is slightly more seasoned as an artist with her first album, Fur and Gold being nominated back in 2006. Her current effort, Two Suns comes in at 10/3.

Perhaps the band with the most indie-rock pedigree on the list is Kasabian, which means it is surprising that they are 10/1 outsiders for the gong behind artists such as Friendly Fires (5/1) and The Horrors (6/1) meaning the Leicester-based band and their album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum are good value at this stage.

Other nominations worth a look are La Roux and Glasvegas’s self-titled efforts (both 10/1) and Irish folk sensation Lisa Hannigan at 12/1. Keep in mind that the Mercury Prize is often awarded to a relative outsider, so backing a nomination with decent odds could be a real earner.

Next Bond Girl

With work beginning on the next instalment of the James Bond series, inevitable speculation is building on who will be cast as the next ‘Bond Girl’. Paddy Power have provided us with some of the hottest tips – in both senses of the phrase.

The so far unnamed follow-up to Quantum of Solace will feature Daniel Craig as 007, returning for a third time and as he grows into the role of the iconic spy. The creators will demand a level of panache from the woman starring opposite.

At 15/8 the bookies favourite is Freida Pinto, the 24 year-old model and actress seen in Slumdog Millionaire. Pinto is a rising star and those in the know are confident that she will be adding to her reputation in the next Bond film, due for release in 2010.

American superstars Angelina Jolie , Scarlett Johansson (both 12/1) and Jenifer Aniston (4/1) have made it onto the list and adding to the quality of the roster is Natalie Portman, quoted at 10/1, who certainly ticks the boxes on genuine talent and stunning looks.

There will certainly be a cry for the role to be filled by British talent and the bookies are covered here – with odds of 8/1 and 10/1 given to part-time actresses/full-time socialites Keira Knightly and Siena Miller.

There are a few options that can kindly be described as outsiders for the role. Kelly Brook (100/1) and Cheryl Cole (40/1) would definitely be popular with Craig, but could they be relied on to help save the world? Or more importantly deliver a half-decent acting performance? At least Amy Winehouse (250/1) could be useful if Bond ever needed to escape a swarm of killer bees – judging by her signature ‘do.

Owen back in the big time

Fresh from cashing an £80 million cheque courtesy of one F Perez, one would expect Sir Alex to be announcing a marquee signing – the kind of big name that would repair the damage of losing the icon that was ‘CR7’.

The best he could do was to pick up England’s forgotten star Michael Owen, jewel in the crown of a spate of underwhelming transfers. However, by the end of the season Ferguson just might be laughing as hard as Michael is now with the 29-year-old showing some real promise as United play out their pre season fixture list.

There is no doubt that the former Newcastle man has genuine class and maybe if you had been paired with Mark Viduka last season, you’d be questioning just where your cutting edge had disappeared to as well.

There are some really decent odds to be had on Totesport if you believe that Owen will hit the goal trail. Even a half-decent season will probably see Capello dishing out the caps once more and Owen is 5/2 to be selected in the England World Cup squad.

You can get 15/8 on him netting on his debut and for the more ambitious among you, 20-plus goals this season comes in at 12/1. Be wary however, Ferguson has recently commented that he will consider using Owen as an impact player only. Owen to score the winner in the FA Cup Final you ask? It’s 66/1.

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