Punters betting on BGT were thrown a curveball last night with the non-appearance of the outright favourite for the competition. It had been widely trailed that 12-year-old Liverpudlian Taylor Fowlis wowed at her audition, and going into yesterday’s final audition show she headed most bookmakers’ lists. But her audition wasn’t even shown, and she isn’t among the 40 semi-finalists.
It was the same story with Arisxandra Libantino. Reports of the nine-year-old’s audition had seen her backed in to single figure odds, with punters anticipating she would be among the last batch of auditionees to be shown. She wasn’t.
Presumably in each case the show’s producers must have discovered some reason why they felt it unwise to put these acts through to the live semis. Having made such a choice, it would clearly make more sense to can an impressive audition entirely than to screen it and then have to explain why the act didn’t make the cut.
This goes to highlight the perils of betting on these events before the runners and riders are confirmed. But where does it all leave punters going into this week of live semi-finals?
In our last article we said we thought producers were shaping up to pitch for a child singer to win it this year. All the child singer eggs would now appear to be in the basket of the new favourite, Ronan Parke.
We still reckon this is the producers’ Plan A, as Ronan Parke has been announced as part of the line-up for tonight’s first semi-final. We pointed out in a previous article that in the four seasons of BGT so far, the acts which sang last in the first semi-final have gone on to get a great result in the final – two wins and two second places.
In three of those four series, the act that closed the first semi-final also went on to close the final. The exception is Susan Boyle, and that’s an exception of the proves-the-rule variety – as we argued, it makes sense for producers to put their most-talked-about act on last in the first semi.
If you buy that theory, then there is a case for getting on Ronan Parke in the outright winner market now (at the time of writing he is top-priced at 11/4 with Boylesports). Of course, we don’t know the running order for tonight’s semi, but Parke is by far the highest-profile of tonight’s acts. It would therefore be a major surprise to us if he appears anywhere other than in the pimp slot.
If he performs well – and assuming we can rely on the returning Simon Cowell to deliver the appropriate hyperbole – he could well end up a significantly shorter price as a result.
As far as we can see, lineups for the other semis have not yet been confirmed, although interestingly the BGT series 5 wikipedia page does assign each semi-finalist to a semi.
If that listing proves correct [Edit: it didn’t; see comments thread below], the “group of death” would appear to be Tuesday’s semi. Not only are two of the top four in the betting – Razy Gogonea and Michael Collings – slated to go head-to-head, they are up against several other contenders who have attracted some support in the outright market: junior boyband New Bounce (14/1), comedy singer Edward Reid (25/1), impressionist Les Gibson (33/1) and Oxford acapella group Out of the Blue (40/1).
In contrast, none of the semi-finalists Wikipedia has lined up for Wednesday’s heat figure at less than 45/1 in the outright market.
Whoever makes it through on Tuesday is thus likely to be in a strong position to challenge Ronan Parke in the final. Not only will they have come through the most competitive semi, there is also guaranteed to be some memorably heightened emotion at the end of the night as the judges agonise over which act to send home (remember the format is that the winner goes through, and the judges choose another finalist from the second and third).
Circus of Horrors and ballet dancing James Hobley will be strong favourites to make it through on Thursday if the listing on Wikipedia is correct, while 6/1 third favourite Jai McDowall should easily get out of Friday’s heat. But supporters of the hot Scot with the trembling knees might want to recall that the acts emerging from Friday’s semi don’t have a great record in Saturday’s final.
Last year the Friday heat was won by Kieran Gaffney, who finished third overall. The year before it was Aidan Davis, who was unplaced in the final. And in season two the last semi winner was Escala, who went on to finish a disappointing fourth in the final from a great late draw. Perhaps the problem for the Friday semi-finalists is that too many people have made their minds up by then?
Anyone betting on the semis themselves should, of course, bear in mind the huge importance of the running order in these heats. Parke is currently top-priced 1/4 with William Hill to win tonight’s semi-final, on which Betfair have also just opened a market (the Betfair outright winner market is also now up).
What are your thoughts about how the contest is shaping up? Do use the comments box below to let us know – and to discuss the semi results as the week progresses, ahead of our post previewing the final on Saturday.