Kendal Mint Punt

Sep 10, 2010 by

This year’s Strictly contestants have been revealed and there are some worthwhile bets to get stuck into before a single heel turn has been performed.

The Beeb has tweaked the competition again so that this year there is no dance-off between the bottom 2 couples, thus putting a greater emphasis on the public vote.

In a nutshell, assuming the same leaderboard rules apply as in previous years – with the public vote taking precedence in the event of a tie – this means that whoever tops the public vote each week cannot be eliminated, and whoever tops the public vote in the final – by our reckoning a 4-couple affair (assuming no one pulls out between now and then) landing on December 18/19 – will win.

Press leaks suggested Chris Hollins was winning the public vote comfortably last year pretty much series-long. The danger for him was, the risk of being eliminated in the dance-off. As it turned out, this never happened after the semi-final dance-off was cancelled. This year, the dance-off worry has been taken out of the equation. So to try and work out who will win, it’s even more a case of working out who is most likely to tick the boxes of the Beeb’s middle England viewership.

Top of the list has to be ‘Countryfile’ presenter Matt Baker. He fills that same safe, good looking, middle class mould as Tom Chambers and Chris Hollins. He is very much a Beeb favourite, a potential housewives’ choice, also has a ballet background, and as an ex-Blue Peter presenter he is sure to be up for the challenge.

The rumours are pointing to Matt being paired with Aliona. We certainly didn’t see the best of her last year – she only lasted 3 weeks with Rav Wilding – but she shone in the pro dances and her and Matt have the potential to be a great match. We recommend taking the 5-1 generally available on Matt on the Outright, and 9-4 with Boylesports for him to be Top Male. There is every chance Matt could start slowly and then drift in the betting in which case, we would recommend backing him again.

Among the women, we cannot escape the strong claims of Kara Tointon who showed her form dancing with Mark Ramprakesh on Sport Relief a couple of years back. It is a general rule that young, attractive females have a tough time winning the SCD audience over and they are usually worth opposing. Of the three younger, glamorous women in this year’s field, Tointon looks the one most likely to buck this trend.

She comes across really well in interview and all dressed up she looks like the perfect English rose. It’s easy to see her being very elegant in Ballroom and she has the sassiness to pull off the fast Latins too. She is believed to be paired with new pro Robin Windsor who has an impressive dance CV and should be able to bring out the best in Kara. We advise taking the 5-1 available on her on the Outright and 5-2 with Boylesports for her to be Top Female.

The other contestant we think could have a great run in the show is Felicity Kendal. Back in the 70s and 80s she was the personification of the thinking man’s crumpet, and due to the timeless appeal of ‘The Good Life’ – a much-loved BBC show of course – her appearance on SCD will create an enormous amount of warmth and empathy among viewers – a wave of good will that could potentially carry her all the way to the final.

The change of format this year means it is more possible for a lesser dancer to go all the way and win it on the back of public support alone. The fast Latins will remain a tough obstacle for someone of Felicity’s vintage but the hope is that they are, for the most part, negotiated early on, while she still has the protection of a big field.

Aged 63 it is also an incredibly demanding schedule she has to cope with but we can envisage her becoming a firm viewer favourite and if her support holds through those virtually guaranteed slightly iffy weeks, it is not unfeasible that Felicity could become the show’s first ‘senior’ winner.

Ahead of tomorrow night’s launch show, the Net rumours suggest she is paired with Vincent Simone. This is potentially the perfect partnership for Felicity as Vincent has built a solid fan base over the years, and they could prove a really fun and charismatic combination. You should take the 12-1 with Stan James and Ladbrokes e/w, and also back Felicity to be Top Female at 8-1 with Victor Chandler.

Rob Furber

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