The Dancing On Ice 2011 line-up is out and we can start building our betting portfolio long before the stars don their skates for the first time on January 9.
But how can we tell our Ray Quinn's from our Todd Carty's before they've even skated? Well, we can't quite do that, but there are several key trends that can point us in the right direction, even at this early stage.
The first thing to note is that gender is irrelevant. In five previous series we have had two male and three female winners, which tells us that there is no gender bias on the ice (as opposed to, say, I'm A Celebrity, where the winner is normally a man).
Secondly, age is crucial. It makes sense that the winning skater would be relatively young - it's a physically demanding show, after all - and the stats bear this out. The oldest celebrity ever to win the show was 35 (Kyran Bracken) - and he was a sportsman so you probably need someone even younger from the other professions. This means you can already put a line through a lot of this year's crop - the likes of Nadia Sawalha, Angela Rippon, Vanilla Ice, Craig McLachlan and Denise Welsh are all too old to win (Dominic Cork should also be in here but as a sportsman he cannot be completely ruled out).
A less obvious trend worth mentioning is that actors and actresses tend to perform very well. This is probably because there is a lot of bravado required to impress the Ice Panel and young actors/actresses normally have this in abundance. Bracken aside, every other winner has been either an actor or actress - and proper ones too, having all been regulars in either a soap or in the West End. As a result, this would put me off backing the likes of Chloe Madeley, Dave Vitty (aka 'Comedy Dave'), Elen Rivas, Jeff Brazier, Johnson Beharry, Kerry Katona and Laura Hamilton.
Finally, a quick note to in-running punters - your act MUST get very good scores from the judges in the first week to be worth backing. The last four winners have all scored 19.0 or higher in their first skate, while they all ranked at least second overall at the end of week one. Natural talent normally comes to the fore very early on.
So based on all the trends, I have two main fancies for you - Sam Attwater (4.1) and Jennifer Metcalfe (8.2). The former is a worthy ante-post favourite as he ticks every box - he's young, an actor (who was in a major soap, Eastenders, which is important), looks fit enough to last the distance and of course being a handsome guy is always a bonus. The latter is also young, an established actress on a major soap (Hollyoaks), good-looking, and should have the physical capabilities to go all the way. Both are front-runners in the market, but rightly so.
For an outside wager, you could do worse than throw some loose change at Steven Arnold (32.0), aka Ashley Peacock off Corrie. He is well-liked after his successful stint on the show and his affable demeanour should see him through a few weeks, even if his skating is not up to scratch. And at 39 years of age, Dominic Cork (34.0) is probably not going to pull up any trees but just for being a sportsman he shouldn't be that price.
Back Sam Attwater at 4.1
Back Jennifer Metcalfe at 8.2
By Andrew Gordon
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