Thank Evans

Sep 4, 2014 by

Thank Evans

Darren Gough, Mark Ramprakash, Chris Hollins, Abbey Clancy – all double figure priced winners for yours truly over the years. Strictly has been a lucrative stamping ground and why the reveal of the new cast of celebrities and their professional pairings always feels like the official start of the autumn season of tv betting.

A bet struck on Gough to win series 3 back in 2005 was, in fact, my first tv betting foray, leading to a bountiful decade as a professional trader of tv betting markets.

This year, the initial reaction to the 15 contestants taking part was one of mild indifference – on the a to z scale of celebs this lot would have to rank closer to the end of the alphabet. TOWIE actor, Bargain Hunt presenter, MasterChef judge, little known actress x 2… when Andy Murray’s mum appears to be one of the more high profile signings, you have to think X Factor has the chance to wipe the floor in terms of the ratings war between the 2 shows in the coming weeks.

Talking of Judy Murray, she has the look of one of the more interesting outsiders at 33-1 e/w and could prove a decent trade if nothing else given she is reportedly paired with Strictly favourite and ballroom supremo Anton.

Strictly is possibly overdue an ‘older’ winner and it is easy to see her being very graceful in ballroom – she’s a slim, fit woman with good posture. More of a concern would be fast Latin dances, which Anton struggles with at the best of times, along with the somewhat hard-nosed persona Judy has cultivated courtside supporting her son, and whether this will transfer to the show and prove something of a vote-loser. The good will towards Anton may help offset this, and they might just be able to bluff their way through any Latin shortfall to reach the business end of the competition.

Among the double figure priced contenders this year, Steve Backshall catches the eye the most. A strong BBC profile, fit, good looking and potential catnip for Home Counties women for whom Strictly is their church. He also has an engaging personality and his eagerness to learn was apparent during the red carpet launch show earlier this week. Ola is reportedly Steve’s pro partner and she, of course, won Strictly back in series 7 partnering Chris Hollins.

There was a storm in a teacup among the tabloids after Ola spoke out regarding the show earlier this year. Will this count against her in this series? It would be incredibly mean-spirited if the judges give her a hard time, again, given the blatant hatchet job she suffered last year partnering Ashley. It would certainly be some story if Ola won, as no pro has won the series twice in its history.

Steve is a pick more based on profile than anything else as he could turn out to to be a dad dancer but a martial arts background hints that he could have the moves in his locker. One slight negative would be the 12 operations he endured after a climbing accident in 2008, fracturing 2 vertebrae in his back.

Alison looks set for the role of surprisingly fleet-footed chubster, following in the footsteps of the likes of Nat Cassidy, Russell Grant and Lisa Riley. She has a bright, bubbly personality which could be perceived as a further positive but could also start to grate over the course of the series along with her Brummie accent. A former Big Brother contestant who now presents on ITV doesn’t look a natural fit with Strictly’s middle England voter demographic either, and her reported pro partner Aljaz won the series last year which looks a further negative.

Sunetra Sarker, reportedly paired with Strictly stalwart Brendan Cole, and Jennifer Gibney, with newcomer Tristan MacManus, could prove more interesting dark horses.

While Pixie Lott (reportedly paired with newcomer Trent Whiddon) and Frankie Bridge (Kevin) are likely to be decent dancers in strong partnerships, their short prices and the age-old concern of votability tempers enthusiasm with both. Abbey Clancy defied the glamorous younger female tag last year but that was a series that relentlessly pursued a female winner, destroying the strongest male opposition in the form of Ashley, and leaving Abbey competing in an all-female final.

At the odds, Caroline Flack makes most appeal among the women at the top of the market, certainly to be Top Female at 9-2.

In 2009, she won the BBC3 series ‘Dancing On Wheels’ with her less able-bodied partner, she has a charming way about her in interview, and has presented on BBC shows in the past so is known to viewers. Previous employment on ITV2’s The Xtra Factor might be viewed as a slight negative along with her past toyboy romance with Harry Stiles, but compared to Pixie and Frankie you get the impression female viewers may be less green-eyed in their appraisal of Caroline.

And her partner Pasha is a definite positive. He is well liked by Strictly fans and very good at creating evocative routines. Last year proved something of a blip for him paired with the hopeless Rachel Riley, as in the previous 2 series he made the final dancing with Chelsee Healey and Kimberley Walsh.

As for the males at the head of the betting, Mark Wright failed to win ‘I’m A Celebrity…’ in 2011 despite ITV’s best efforts to promote him, but Karen Hauer, an excellent teacher and choreographer, is a definite positive for his chance, and while Simon Webbe of Blue proved himself an able dancer finishing 3rd in the Strictly Christmas Special 2011, dancing a cha cha cha with Katya Virshilas, and has a very able teacher in Kristina, you sense both these guys might prove a little too bland to capture the public’s imagination.

Thom Evans, meanwhile, is the perfect photofit of a male Strictly winner… hunky former rugby player turned catwalk model with good looks to spare and a potential snake hips based on the brief clip of him dancing during the Beeb’s red carpet show.

You would also presume the show is likely to revert to its default position of favouring a male winner this year, or at least not going out of its way to put away the best male dancer. Iveta is excellent with her choreography and tuition – simply recall what she achieved in 2013 with Mark Benton – so the sky’s the limit with Thom as her pupil. Iveta also proved very charismatic and an absolute blast on ITT in the last series.

The one potential negative with Thom might be over-confidence but on the assumption he is going to hit the dance floor running, and in the hope he is wise enough to play the humble card throughout, 13-2 looks worth snapping up with SkyBet.

Tim Wonnacott (Natalie), Gregg Wallace (Aliona), Scott Mills (newcomer Joanna Clifton) and Jake Wood (Janette) complete the field. Tim has drawn arguably the best female pro teacher in Nat Lowe but it is hard to see him making much impact.

Betfair book positions will constantly shift throughout the series but to continue with the transparency of giving recommendations on a points basis, started during Eurovision 2014, this is the initial Strictly portfolio:

Thom Evans: 6pt win 13-2 (SkyBet)

Caroline Flack: 6pt win Top Female – 9-2 (Boylesports)

Judy Murray: 0.5pt e/w – 33-1 (Ladbrokes, Coral), fifth the odds, first 3

1pt win Top Female – 16-1 (widely available)

Steve Backshall: 2pt e/w 16-1 (Ladbrokes), fifth the odds, first 3

2pt win Top Male – 8-1 (Boylesports)


  1. When I saw Jennifer’s and Judy’s name on the list, I thought both had potential. I even suspected Anton would be paired with Judy. Like you, the only thing that concerns me is her hard-nosed persona. Having said that, she should appeal to the middle-class, tennis-loving BBC audience.

    Jennifer is great value in being part of BBC’s Mrs Brown’s Boys. Brendan O’Carroll is bound to make an appearance and middle England will predictably lap it up. Mrs Brown’s Boys is BBC gold and I suspect TPTB will give the Irish duo of Jennifer and Tristan a easy route through to the latter stages. I doubt Jennifer will be agile enough to score big, but the phone vote should be enough to make her a decent trading prospect.

    Thom and Caroline also stand out for me. I was interested in Steve but failed to get matched at the higher prices. I do think Dad dancer might be a risk though.

    Pixie and Trent look a good lay right now, whereas Kevin and Frankie might show more personality. Frankie did attend a private dance school when she was younger, so I think she should do quite well. Also, The Saturdays tend to be liked by many mums and dads and regularly appear on BBC programs. Of all the girl bands, I think The Saturdays appeal the most.

    • Rob

      Steve certainly did not look a natural in the launch show group dance. Nor did Judy. But there is a chance of improvement for both.

      You have to imagine Pixie, Thom, Frankie, Caroline and Simon are all going to prove highly competent. It is going to come down to the couple who grab the public’s imagination. Market is very tight.

  2. hemsby

    Thanks for the article Rob.

    It’s very difficult trying to pick a selection from the market leaders… you mention,Pixie,Frankie,Caroline,Thom and Simon are likely to be very competent,with perhaps only Simon having likability issues.

    As a consequence,my eyes are drawn further down the odds list,and the 2 most plausible contenders of the bigger prices IMO are Alison E/W @ 66/1 and Jake E/W @ 25/1.Going by the launch show group dance,both seem to have a modicum of rhythm and on that basis,those are my two early plays.

    I look forward to reading your further articles as the series progresses.

    • Rob

      Good luck with the Alison and Jake e/w wagers, hems. It looks a very tricky field to assess pre-1st live shows, and dances, and perhaps more importantly, pre-seeing how the celebs come across on ITT, & how well they gel with their pro partners.

  3. Rob

    1st dances:

    Alison and Aljaz will be performing the Cha Cha to ‘I’m Every Woman’ by Chaka Khan.
    Caroline and Pasha will be performing the Cha Cha to ‘Can You Feel It?’ by The Jacksons.
    Frankie and Kevin will be Waltzing to ‘Someone Like You’ by Adele.
    Gregg and Aliona will be performing the Cha Cha to ‘Hot N Cold’ by Katy Perry.
    Jake and Janette will be performing the Tango to ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears.
    Jennifer and Tristan will be Jiving to ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams.
    Judy and Anton will be Waltzing to ‘Mull Of Kintyre’ by Wings.
    Mark and Karen will be performing the Cha Cha to ‘I’m Your Man’ by Wham!
    Pixie and Trent will be performing the Jive to ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift.
    Scott and Joanne will be performing the Cha Cha to ‘Rock DJ’ by Robbie Williams.
    Simon and Kristina will be performing the Jive to ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ by Little Richard.
    Steve and Ola will be Tangoing to ‘Born To Be Wild’ by Steppenwolf.
    Sunetra and Brendan will also be performing the Tango – to “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor Doctor)” by Robert Palmer.
    Thom and Iveta will be Waltzing to ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Westlife.
    Tim and Natalie will performing the Cha Cha to ‘Shop Around’ by Captain & Tennille.

  4. Rob

    Tim & Nat, & now I think we have see them all.

  5. Rob

    Forgot 1 more couple – Jennifer & Tristan:

  6. Guildo Horn Forever

    Hi Rob,

    Haven’t seen any of this series of Strictly but I have stumbled across these articles:

    I recall being in the same room as a celebrity chef a few years ago, who launched into a loud, entertaining and extensive spell of bitching re Gregg Wallace & his philandering ways.

    I guess Gregg may be value at 2/1 in the elimination market.

    Certainly wouldn’t be touching the 5/1 (and contracting) for Judy Murray to exit.

  7. Guildo Horn Forever

    Would also imagine Scott Mills, 5th fap in the elim market, will be safe for a while. Whatever the appeal or not of his dancing, he’s a v popular lad.

    • Rob

      Hi Guildo,
      Good to hear from you again. My initial thought when Coral issued 1st elim prices was that they had the wrong fav in Tim, and Gregg should have been fav. I got some 4-1 which certainly was value. Not so keen at 2-1 but totally agree that his profile screams ‘will struggle for votes’.

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        The early bird strikes again! Yeah, 4/1 looks terrific, Rob. Len might think Gregg is ok but I can imagine Craig, Bruno and Darcey hating him. He might struggle to muster an enthusiasm to “save” him.

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