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FINAL HAND STORY

Frontrunners

There’s a race on for three different ‘prizes’ this month. Duncan Wilkie checks the odds on the contenders in three very contrasting contests

Button in pole position

As the time draws near for a nation of sports fans to once again cast their votes and crown a new icon BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the battle to land the prestigious award couldn’t possibly be closer.

F1 driver Jenson Button currently leads the pack – just as he does in this season’s Drivers’ Championship – but the 2/1 placed on the Brawn GP hotshot certainly isn’t the most enticing price given that his title is far from assured.

More interesting perhaps is the rise of gold medal-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis, who has seen her odds slashed to 10/3 since her triumph in Berlin. Clearly a popular choice with the voters, Ennis looks a solid bet for the accolade – especially if the proverbial wheels come off of Button’s title challenge in the next few weeks.

Just behind her is Scotsman Andy Murray, who recently usurped none other than Rafael Nadal to take second spot in the World Tennis Rankings. Currently priced at 4/1, the tennis ace offers a fair deal of value as third-favourite, but his up-and-down relationship with the English media could well scupper his chances of victory.

Perhaps the best odds in the leading ten candidates can be found on England cricket captain Andrew Strauss who, having guided his team to Ashes glory last month, will undoubtedly receive a great deal of support ahead of the ceremony. Priced at a massive 8/1, Strauss looks the best bet of the cricketers, with teammates Andrew Flintoff (9/1) and Stuart Broad (20/1) the most viable alternatives.

Who’s the new Bose?

With Mihir Bose finally stepping down from his post as the BBC’s sports editor after two-and-a-half years of distinctly underwhelming journalism, the race is on to find the Tottenham-loving hack a long-term successor.

The former Daily Telegraph writer cited ‘personal reasons’ for his decision to part ways with the company, but it doesn’t take an industry-insider to figure out that the kilobytes of hate mail which mysteriously attached themselves to the end of his weekly blog probably had a fair deal to do with it.

As such, the BBC are understandably keen to appoint a figurehead that is slightly more popular with their target audience, and Irish bookmakers Boylesports have wasted no time in compiling a shortlist of some of the most likely candidates to fill the space vacated by their former sports editor.

The list is a veritable who’s who of journalists and presenters, with the BBC sports columnist James Munro the current favourite at 3/1. Munro is closely followed by Beeb colleagues James Pearce and Dan Walker at 10/3 and 4/1 respectively, with popular presenters Claire Balding (9/1), Adrian Chiles (10/1) and Mark Pougatch (12/1) all also in the running.

Having raided the Telegraph for Bose’s ‘expertise’ previously, the 12/1 offered on Henry Winter being similarly poached looks to be good value, while the Times’ Martin Samuel is also a viable candidate at 14/1. Speculative bets, meanwhile, can be had on Sue Barker (25/1) and ITV’s Steve Ryder (50/1), with Des Lynam heading up the pack at a prohibitive 66/1.

Katona given cold shoulder

Troubled mum Kerry Katona has been left out in the cold by supermarket chain Iceland after pictures of her allegedly snorting a line of cocaine in her bathroom emerged in the national media – and Paddy Power have now opened a book on who will be the former Atomic Kitten singer’s squeaky-clean successor.

With the media speculation about her personal life forcing Iceland to drop her as the face of their UK advertising campaign, the frozen food giants are currently searching for a more wholesome figure to endorse their brand and – as you’d expect – the potential candidates start at C-list and only get worse from there.

Currently filling Katona’s dysfunctional boots for the chain is 44-year-old TV presenter Coleen Nolan, who has understandably been installed as the 6/4 favourite pending official confirmation of the appointment by Iceland. Behind her is Welsh songstress and presenter Charlotte Church at 5/2, with former Hear’Say duo Kym Marsh (4/1) and Suzanne Shaw (6/1) both similarly fancied.

Further down the pecking order, longer odds can be found on EastEnder Patsy Palmer (16/1), perennially unoccupied Spice Girl Mel B (20/1) and professional media-sponge Jordan (25/1), with ‘classy’ option Victoria Beckham currently the rank outsider at 500/1.

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