Maltese momentum is growing
In my first preview piece, I put up Malta as a bet in the Winner market at 4.77/2, and Destiny's "Je Me Casse" has already come in to 3.953/1. I still believe it is worth backing as a winner, so get on if you haven't already.
The excellent "10 Years" by Iceland is now out to 20.019/1 to win, and I just think that's too big a price for an act that would have had a great chance of winning the contest last year if it had gone ahead. At very least it's worth considering as a back-to-lay.
For an assessment of the top five entries in the market, as well as an explanation of how it's all going to work in Rotterdam, click here.
Ireland's glory days are long gone
We've travelled a long way from the halcyon days of Johnny Logan celebrating like he'd scored the winner in the FA Cup final, as he was crowned as Eurovision champion not once but twice. Linda Martin's "Why Me?" is a distant memory, and since then we've been made to sit through efforts from Jedward (twice), Dustin the Turkey and a lot of forgettable musical flotsam in-between.
The seven-time winners have lost the golden touch, and even the lustre of Westlife alumnus Nicky Byrne wasn't enough to snare a Grand Final spot in 2016. Ireland have made the final just once since 2013, and they've only made the top ten twice since 2000. To be fair to Jedward, they did post a top-eight finish in 2011, but "Lipstick" won't exactly go down as one of the all-time greats.
So what of the latest entry from singer-songwriter Lesley Roy? I think after years of disappointing efforts, "Maps" has the quality to reach the Grand Final. The music video version is too heavily produced, but I think when it's pared down to Lesley's voice on the live stage, this will transmit really well. It's uplifting, and it stays in your head long after you've first heard it.
Ireland have been drawn in a tough semi-final, but the question we must ask ourselves is whether this can sneak into the top ten at odds of 2.588/5. I think it'll be tight, but 2.588/5 seems quite a chunky price to me in the To Qualify market.
Will Embers catch fire?
Having been denied the chance to compete last year, singer-songwriter James Newman is back for another attempt at restoring the UK's tattered Eurovision reputation. You can put it down to Brexit-based ill feeling if you like, but the UK's poor performances in recent years have really been down because of poor song-choice and acts that either lack experience or star quality.
To give Newman his due, he has won a Brit Award for songwriting (he co-wrote a hit for Rudimental and Ella Eyre), and "Embers" wouldn't be out of place on UK pop radio nowadays. It's got a good hook, the vocals are decent, and I think it's the best entry the UK has sent for a decade. Whether that translates into votes remains to be seen, but we shouldn't be talking about Nul Points or Last Place or anything like that. We need a bit more liquidity in the market, but we may have a look at the Top 15 market nearer the time. Remember, the UK are guaranteed a Grand Final spot as one of the Big Five.