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5/12/2008 No.8
rendspotting Editor's Choice
Dan Roebuck
Friday Dec 5, 2008
  Big three personalities have cornered the market

On Monday the BBC issued a shortlist of 10 sporting celebrities to contest this year's vote for Sports Personality of the Year but as far as the bookmakers are concerned only three names should be considered. After Lewis Hamilton, Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy, the next best in the betting is the 66-1 shot Joe Calzaghe, which suggests that the layers believe it will be one of the top three who collects the prize.

Hamilton, at 10-11 (Bet365), has to be favourite given his formula one drivers' title success and a win for the McLaren man is the result most firms fear. William Hill have reported bets of up to £2,500 on Hamilton while Extrabet have laid a £1,000 bet at 9-2 among other four-figure wagers.

For punters who have backed Hamilton at odds against - and on Betfair he drifted to 10.0 (9-1) when it momentarily looked like he might not overtake Timo Glock in the Brazilian grand prix last month - then you can sit back and enjoy a clutch of BBC presenters fawning over your man a week on Sunday safe in the knowledge that you have a value bet. But for those who have yet to invest, I am not quite sure he represents a fair price at 10-11.

As usual with awards decided by public votes, achievement is not the only thing to consider. Hamilton's success would normally see him win comfortably - seven formula one drivers have won before - but his tax-exile status in Switzerland will not have endeared him to the masses and he splits opinion even among grand prix followers from this country.

There is also the fact that the BBC did not have coverage of F1 this year, although they do in 2009 and Joe Calzaghe proved 12 months ago that lack of terrestrial television coverage is not a hindrance to taking the award. On TV figures alone, Hamilton should win easily - none of Adlington's and Hoy's events came close to attracting the almost 9m viewers that tuned in live to the Brazilian grand prix.

Adlington, who was backed yesterday into 7-4 (Boylesports, Coral), could well argue her two gold medals and 800m freestyle world-record swim (breaking a mark that had stood for 19 years) is a greater achievement that Hamilton's. And, unlike with Hamilton, you would be hard pushed to find someone to criticise Adlington for the way she conducts herself in or out of the pool. Is that enough to sway a vote in her favour? It is difficult to say, but of those who might vote that do not follow sport Adlington is more likely to prosper among them (such as Zara Phillips did two years ago) and, at the prices, she is a better bet that Hamilton.

Remember, odds-on shots do get turned over in this competition. Darren Clarke was as short as 2-7 in 2006 before being denied by the 3-1 shot Phillips, while Hamilton traded at just 1-3 last year but failed to attract as much support on the night as Calzaghe, who won the award despite being offered at 9-1. Second-guessing the public is no easy task and backing odds-on shots has proved spectacularly unprofitable in recent years.

Hoy, who won three golds in Beijing (a record for a Briton in a single Games), has been backed in recent weeks from 7-1 to 5-1 (general) but the presence of three other cyclists on the shortlist could split the vote from that sport.Paddy Power has come up with tricast betting with Hamilton-Adlington-Hoy in that order quoted at 2-1, which is worth a saver in case Adlington misses out on top honours.

Elsewhere, Usain Bolt, at 2-5 (general), is a worthy favourite of the overseas award following his historic three gold-medal/world-record Olympics. Michael Phelps, 3-1 (Betfred) second favourite, is his only realistic challenger due to his record eight gold medals in the Beijing pool.

In the junior category it is difficult to see why Laura Robson, the Wimbledon Girls' champion, is as short as 2-7 (Ladbrokes). A more deserving winner is surely Eleanor Simmonds, the British Paralympian swimmer who won two gold medals at the age of 13 and who can be backed at 5-2 (Ladbrokes). Unlike the main award the overseas and junior gongs are decided by a panel of experts rather than a public vote.

Rebecca Adlington to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year at 7-4 (Boylesports, Coral)
Hamilton-Adlington-Hoy tricast at 2-1 (Paddy Power)
Eleanor Simmonds to win BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year at 5-2 (Ladbrokes)
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