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SPOTY Top Three Betting: Skelton's story could make him the surprise Big Star

Old Gold - 58-year-old Nick Skelton has a story to tug at the heartstrings.
Old Gold - 58-year-old Nick Skelton has a story to tug at the heartstrings.
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Andy Murray is a massive odds-on favourite to win his third Sports Personality of the Year award so Ralph Ellis has been looking for some value bets in the top three...


"Skelton admits himself he “doesn’t have the greatest body in sport”. But he does have the most amazing story, just the sort of tale that will catch the mood of the audience who reach for their voting phones after sitting down on a cold Sunday night to pick over the sporting memories of 2016."

The real Big Star of the Sports Personality of the Year awards won't be there.

And no, I don't mean Andy Murray, [1.16] favourite to be the first person ever to win the BBC's prize for a third time but absent on his winter training block in Miami.

I mean Big Star himself. The giant, handsome horse who carried Nick Skelton to an individual gold medal in the Rio Olympics. It appears that while the great and good of the sporting world are assembled at the Genting Arena in Birmingham on Sunday night, he'll still be safely tucked up in his Warwickshire stable.

Which is a shame. You can just imagine the superbly built 13-year-old being interviewed by horse loving Clare Balding and bringing the house down. If anything would give his 58-year-old rider Nick Skelton a few extra votes, that would be it.

But just because the BBC aren't going for that extra little gimmick, it doesn't rule Skelton out of contention when it comes to a podium finish on Sunday night.

Third is the new first for SPOTY this year. Murray's prize is guaranteed and deservedly so after winning Wimbledon and a Gold Medal and ending the year as number one. Alistair Brownlee is equally certain of second place both for his own Olympic Gold and his act of brotherly love helping Jonny stagger across the line in Mexico. Murray-Brownlee is [1.65] in the SPOTY 1-2 Forecast market.

But when it comes to finding the other person in the top three, it is not nearly so clear cut. Laura Kenny is [2.86], Mo Farah [4.3], and then there's Skelton at [4.1].

Personally I'd vote for Farah, but sadly the British public is unlikely to feel the same way. Mo got only 8% of the vote in 2012, and even less a year later when he won two golds at the World Championships. It's also not expected he'll be at the ceremony.

Back in the summer when Laura Trott, as she was then, was planning her wedding to Jason Kenny, the other half of cycling's golden couple, I'd thought those romantic associations would make her guaranteed a top three finish and even put her as a good outside bet for the top prize.

Now I'm not so sure, and I'm beginning to wonder if the story of Skelton, the man who became the oldest British gold medallist, might just resonate with the voting public a little more.

He admits himself he "doesn't have the greatest body in sport". But he does have the most amazing story, just the sort of tale that will catch the mood of the audience who reach for their voting phones after sitting down on a cold Sunday night to pick over the sporting memories of 2016.

This is a man who broke his neck in two places 16 years ago, and had the upper half of his spine immobilised for five months, but refused to quit his sport. A man who has undergone a hip replacement, and recovered from a crippling shoulder injury.

The horse won't be in Birmingham, but there's every chance Clare Balding will have been to visit the stables and there will be some film to tug the heartstrings. So that's why, when it comes to looking for a value bet on Sunday night, I reckon that Skelton could be the Big Star.


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