We are close to reaching the halfway point in this year's Strictly Come Dancing, and Alan Dudman is looking to actor Joe McFadden this weekend - who is a decent price for top marks this Saturday...
"He is tailor-made for the Charleston - and he gets his chance on Saturday. It could be his best dance."
What Happened Last Week
Those that backed Simon Rimmer (who?) at around the [1.65] mark would have been dancing on the sofas to Sunday Brunch following his well-deserved exit from the show last week. But the big surprise was who he faced in the Rimmer-zone (or the dance-off).......Mollie King.
I mentioned in the column prior to Saturday's show that I had a hunch for a shock - it's a shame I had no clue who it would be (not helpful). Mollie has come out fighting with plenty of coverage in the tabloids as always, but at least she has spent more time on the show than her latest 'hit single' Hair Down spent in the UK Song Chart.
Last Saturday was a good routine for her, yet she only scored 27 points. Her numbers this series with four judges (excluding the Bruno absence) have been 23, 25, 30, 27 and 27, meaning she is absolutely miles behind the frontrunners. King is out to [20.0] to back and [22.0] to lay in the Winner market. I wouldn't be in the habit of laying such big prices (nor advising), but you need both sides to make a market, and if it was my thing, I'd take that price on all day. She isn't good enough to win.
Meanwhile Susan Calman took a step back, well quite a few in fact (ponderously), with a poor 18-point Game Of Thrones routine. I may be the only person who hasn't watched a single episode of GOT, but at least I now know who Jon Snow is. Hard lines on Susan, she lacked the grace and guile for such a routine. And Kevin looked nothing like the newsreader either.
The other reverse in terms of numbers was Jonnie Peacock. Dressed as a pirate, he was a bit too square and stiff according to the judges, and his 20 was way down on some of his previous scores. Peacock is priced at [29.0] to win, and [5.50] for Top Male.
I haven't mentioned Davood Ghadami much recently, so I'll address that this week. He had the notorious Rumba last Saturday and earned a '5' from Craig Revel-Horwood. He managed the remarkable feat of performing a Rumba with no actual Rumba steps, and his scores are going backwards. His last two of 25 and 22 mark him down as a potential contender for another Bottom Two appearance.
The Eastenders' actor isn't progressing. Much like the soap really.
Through gritted teeth, Debbie McGee beat Aston Merrygold by one point to foil our bet. Again, it's probably pocket talking and bitterness, but Aston's Paso was outrageously good and to many it was the dance of the night. He needs a bit of magic, not a lot, just a bit, to beat Flexy McGee.
Who Dances What This Week?
Well I didn't want to make the intro too Aston and Debbie-heavy this week, but it is hard to get excited about Highest Score bets for the likes of Gemma Atkinson and Ruth Langsford.
However, I am thrilled (nay, beaming) about the possibility of Joe McFadden netting a good routine this weekend. My hunch for a top-scoring Paso Doble was almost correct a few weeks ago - and he did collect a 10 from one judge, but he is tailor-made for the Charleston - and he gets his chance on Saturday. It could be his best dance.
McFadden has energy and drive (which is probably why he isn't in the gloomy Eastenders), and he is also the man for the facial expression. Just what you need for this!
Add to that the perfect music of Ella Fitzgerald's Alexander Ragtime Band song, I am hoping we can get a bit of [4.0] to [5.0] in-play on the price for Highest Scorer. It's worth an outside chance, especially considering Debbie netted her 39 with the routine last weekend. There's no denying her flexibility - which is nearly as good as mine. However, I can't do Mondays or Thursdays.
And what about McGee? Well her winner price is now [5.80], which is good going for the 56-year-old who was a 33/1 chance on the Sportsbook going into the show. Age ain't nothing but a number. Although Methuselah's Jive was terrible in 3318 BC.
Debbie dances a Tango this Saturday, so expect her to be prominent again in the Highest Score market at around [3.0]. Aston meanwhile has only got top marks once, yet is always around the [2.50] figure or shorter in that market. I think he deserves better personally, but maybe his dances have too much of a modern twist for the judges' liking? His Paso was brilliant in the latest show, and I thought the money was in the bag - but Shirley Ballas didn't go overboard (despite a 9), and Craig thought there was too much pop in it.
Is it time to start thinking about laying Merrygold in that market seeing as we are covered in the ante-post?
In other news, Gemma dances a Salsa this week but she's surely too tall, and it might come across as a bit heavy (as pointed at by ITT's Ian Waite)? It might.
Alexandre Burke's 35-point Tango last Saturday was down on her 39 a fortnight ago, but we can leave her alone this week as Highest Scorer at around [2.40] as she has the Cha Cha - and that's been the routine of dread this season. No thanks, but good song choice again Alex.
Who Faces Elimination This Week?
For the Elimination bet, you need a Bottom Two - and that's not been the case so far with Ruth. Dear old lovely Ruth. She's avoided it every single results show.
She is a 6/4 shot on the Sportsbook to go this Sunday, but with no appearance yet in the dance-off, that has to raise a bit of doubt. I think if you are backing a 6/4 fav in a voting show, you need everything in your favour at a short price, and at the moment, she has the voters which makes that a no bet for me. We struck gold by laying her at short odds last week in the Bottom Two - and I'm tempted again with an odds-on figure.
Remember, Anton Du Beke pulled out all the stops with his fantastic retro pink outfit and sleeves two weeks ago, and that's the sort of thing that gets people to vote. If it were priced up on ability and scores, she would be long odds-on to go, but it's also a phone competition.
The daytime TV queen has the Paso Doble this weekend; which is a big negatron. And as much as I love Ruth, this most certainly is not her dance considering what is needed with the legs. It's the toughest one for the female, but Anton might make it as some sort of parody affair - they seem to be going down that route. So perhaps they can fluke another week with the voters behind them?
If she evades the Bottom Two, there is room again for a potential shock in the red zone. The fact that Mollie avoided it last Saturday signals a better response with the fans, it usually happens as a reaction and a reminder.
It might be worth taking a punt on Davood or even an out-of-the-ballpark bet on Gemma to appear in the dance-off. The former has appeared there once, and working on the basis of Ruth getting plenty of votes again, this could be open with those two places up for grabs. He is a 2/1 chance on the Sportsbook for Elimination, whilst Gemma is 50/1 to go, but is clearly way ahead on dancing ability.
Week Seven Recommended Bets
Back Joe McFadden as Highest Scorer @ [5.50] or bigger
Back Gemma Atkinson in Bottom Two @ [10.0] or bigger
Lay Ruth Langsford in Bottom Two @ [1.40]
Back Ruth Langsford as Lowest Scorer @ [1.70]
*Strictly airs this Saturday on BBC One at 18:50 to 20:20 with in-play markets available, with the results show Sunday at 19:15 to 20:00.