There's value to be had before all is revealed in this weekend's first performances
Friday night will be the first opportunity we get to see the celebrities in action as they take to the dance floor with their professional partners after so far only having the group dance on launch night to go off for clues. To find a betting angle we have to consider three important factors. First of all, who we think might actually be able to dance, secondly who the public will warm to most and finally, the professionals!
The early market is dominated by pop star Will Young who has been partnered with Karen Clifton. Young famously won a public vote when winning Pop Idol in 2002, receiving 4.6million votes in the process and the bookies obviously feel he will be popular again with viewers.
But it’s second favourite, Claudia Fragpane, who will be my first selection.
The 18 year-old former British gymnast ticks all the boxes when it comes to dancing potential. A four-time gold medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, she excelled on the floor during her gymnastic career, meaning she should easily cope with the emphasis on style and technique that will be under such scrutiny from the judges. At just 4ft 6in, she is a pocket rocket possessing huge power which should help her with the more spectacular moves that can really capture the viewer’s imagination, just as Louis Smith did when winning in 2012.
Partnered with the baby-faced 21 year-old AJ Pritchard, who makes his Strictly debut this series, the two youngsters in the field should hopefully form a really strong partnership.
A profitable strategy over the years has involved siding with the ever popular professional Kevin Clifton, who last year narrowly missed out on the Strictly crown despite he and his partner Kellie Bright outscoring eventual winner Jay McGuinnes in the Final. This year, he’s been paired with former singer and TV presenter Louise Redknapp. It’s extremely tempting to back this pair when you consider Clifton has finished 2nd in each of his three appearances on the show, but with Fragpane to contend with, I just can’t see Redknapp being able to wow the judges and viewers with the really technical dances required to win the show.
Beyond these two, it looks a weak year for the women with the rest 10/1 or bigger. Laura Whitmore and Giovanni Pernice could well make a good partnership but she did look limited in the brief glimpses we saw during the group dance and the popular professionals Pasha Kovalev and Aljaz Skorjanec both look to have been given difficult challenges with their respective partners Naga Munchetty and Daisy Lowe.
Of the rest, Eastenders actress Tameka Empson may out-perform her lengthy odds due to her infectious personality and the popularity of her character on the BBC drama, but ultimately you’d expect her to fall short of the technical ability required to make it to the final.
On to the men and as I mentioned, it’s Will Young who leads the way. Although there is no doubting he will be popular with housewives up and down the country, he has never really shown any dancing prowess during his long music career which is a big concern. I expect him to go deep into the competition but also expect him not to be favourite after this weekend’s show.
There are a number of new female professionals this year, four in total, which removes that betting angle slightly, especially when you consider those who have been on the show for a number of years have not been handed the greatest of partners.
With that in mind it becomes a choice between three in my opinion. Ore Oduba certainly showed glimpses of his natural rhythm during the launch show and some bookies certainly spotted his potential, pricing him up as short as 5/1. But there was also no hiding his nerves that night and with his lack of a performance background also counting against him I'm happy to look elsewhere. Judge Robert Rinder meanwhile also showed plenty of promise during the group dance and there is no doubting his personality will play a major role in how he fares on the show. However, there is the concern as to whether he can keep this under control to the extent he avoids becoming a novelty act.
Which leaves the actor Danny Mac, who will by second pick at 11/1. The Hollyoaks man has a background in musicals and also studied at an arts school meaning he has all the credentials needed to perform on the Strictly dance floor. Interestingly (or not), he also has the second highest Twitter following of this year's celebrities - a few thousand behind Laura Whitmore – and can also count on an army of loyal Hollyoaks fans. Add to that his physique and his heart-throb reputation and there’s no reason why he can’t go all the way. My only concern is that he is too good early doors as this can often put the public off!