The odds indicate that Sunday's 2021 Sports Personality of the Year award is a foregone conclusion but Rob Furber highlights the possibility of an upset...
"What you learn over the years of trading SPOTY is, it is never a done deal until the result is read out. Kenny Dalglish announcing Mo Farah as the winner in 2017 serves as a powerful reminder of the glorious uncertainty surrounding the SPOTY result each year."
For serious Specials bettors, SPOTY is a 12 month trading platform with scope to take advantage of huge price movements as the sporting year evolves.
This year has been a vintage one, aided by a Summer Olympics festooned with gold medals for Team GB athletes, prior to British teenage tennis sensation Emma Raducanu's remarkable victory at the US Open in September.
SPOTY 2021 shortlist:
Woe for Kenny backers
A peruse of the trading charts on the Betfair SPOTY 2021 Winner market shows that Laura Kenny was matched as low as 2.01/1 after she became the first British woman to win cycling gold at three Olympics. Her husband Jason was subsequently matched at 2.0421/20 when he won a record seventh Olympic gold medal defending his keirin title.
With the Kenny cycling vote potentially split, SPOTY traders latched on to Tom Daley who, in his fourth Olympics and after much previous heartache, finally won his first gold in the men's synchronised 10-metre platform with his partner Matty Lee.
Daley was matched as low as 2.26/5, with big odds Daley backers patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Their confidence proved to be premature, with Raducanu's fairytale win at Flushing Meadow, after making it through all the way from the qualifiers without dropping a set, turning out to be a major fly in the ointment.
It was the big-priced Raducanu backers who ended up in clover as she goes into Sunday night's ceremony trading at 1.071/14 on the Exchange. But can we be certain it is game, set and match for Raducanu?
What you learn over the years of trading SPOTY is that it is never a done deal until the result is read out. And Liverpool and Scotland football legend, Kenny Dalglish, announcing Mo Farah as the winner in 2017 serves as a powerful reminder of the glorious uncertainty surrounding the SPOTY result each year.
Farah's unexpected win in 2017 is the SPOTY precedent that should leave the big Raducanu backers breaking out in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.
Heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua was considered a certainty, matched at 1.11/10 on Betfair for the win, with Farah matched on the day of the BBC ceremony as big as 330.00329/1.
Not only was Joshua turned over by Farah for the main award but he missed out on the top three as well, with top three Joshua layers paying for Christmas by landing the fabled 1.011/100 boil over in an incredibly close vote - Sir Mo Farah 83,524 votes, Jonathan Rea 80,567, Jonnie Peacock 73,429, Anthony Joshua 73,411.
Something similar also happened in 2014 when golfer Rory McIlroy was matched as low as 1.091/11 for the SPOTY win, only to be beaten by Lewis Hamilton (Hamilton 209,920 votes, Rory McIlroy 123,745, Jo Pavey 99,913).
This year's shortlist was delayed due to the F1 season coming down to the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, with Lewis Hamilton losing to Max Verstappen in a nail-biter which prompted further wild price fluctuations across the Betfair SPOTY markets, with Hamilton's supporters cursing an agonising last lap defeat.
One concern for Raducanu backers is that sportswomen have generally under-performed on the SPOTY vote over the years, and you have to go back to 2006 for the last female winner - Zara Phillips.
Raducanu is also expected to be a no-show at the Salford ceremony on Sunday night as she is busy preparing for next year's WTA season training in the UAE, though non-attendance didn't stop Lewis Hamilton winning last year, nor Andy Murray in previous years.
On the plus side, her US Open final success was shown on free-to-view, Channel 4 with a peak audience of 9.2 million viewers tuning in to see Emma triumph over Canada's Leylah Fernandez.
Raducanu established herself as the nation's new sporting sweetheart virtually overnight, aided by the fact she is a naturally charming young woman which shines through in all her TV interviews.
The running order of the shortlisted sportsmen and women on the night, the edit they receive, and how they come across in interview, can still shift the Betfair SPOTY odds significantly in-running.
Mo Farah being interrupted during the interview by his young kids and showing himself to be a loving family man won it for him in 2017. And last year there is a school of thought Liverpool and England footballer Jordan Henderson went very close to toppling Lewis Hamilton, with Henderson's winner price on Betfair collapsing to as low as 2.0421/20 after a dream edit on the night.
Sadly, the BBC no longer publishes the voting figures so we'll never know how close the vote was between Hamilton and Henderson.
While he may fall short of winning the SPOTY trophy, Tom Daley looks the bet in the w/o Raducanu market. His LGBT profile is very much BBC-friendly and we can probably expect a strong edit for him on the night. Tom is also great in front of the camera.
Daley's narrative of finally winning a gold medal at his fourth Games, and after 13 years of trying, looks the one the Great British Public bought into the most among all the Team GB gold winners in Tokyo.
Fellow Olympian Adam Peaty defended his 100-metre breaststroke gold, and also won 4 x 100-metre medley relay gold, prior to enjoying seven weeks of primetime BBC coverage on Strictly Come Dancing.
Probably the most interesting contender among the six candidates from a dark horse perspective is Tyson Fury who will likely spend much of this week threatening legal action against the BBC for putting his name on the list.
Fury is very much the people's champion and successfully defended his WBC heavyweight title against Deontay Wilder in October. Despite Fury telling his fans not to vote for him, they probably still will and Fury is in contention for a top 3 finish along with Peaty. Raheem Sterling and Sarah Storey look like fifth and sixth placers.
Betfair's World Sports Star market has seen a huge plunge on Grand National-winning jockey Rachel Blackmore who currently trades at 1.222/9. This is voted for via the BBC Sport website and the vote will close at 1pm tomorrow.
This vote, like the main SPOTY vote, is only open to UK residents. Rachel heralds from County Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland which is also why she didn't qualify for the main award.
Rachel's incredible milestone of becoming the first ever woman to win the Grand National would have lodged in the mind of general sports fans country-wide, and Blackmore's UK-based achievement should give her a clear edge over the other five sportspeople shortlisted for the award, with the UK horse racing media also doing its best to drum up support for her.
The potential main challenger to Blackmore to emerge from the pack is Max Verstappen after yesterday's sensational Formula One world title win, but Blackmore should be able to fend him off.
As for the main prize, you would think the BBC would be keenest to ensure a rare female winner of the historic SPOTY trophy, so Raducanu does look in pole position to win. That said, Tom Daley is not entirely out of it, and funny things can happen in-running on the night, so the advice for Raducanu backers would be, don't count your chickens just yet.
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