Countdown’s Rachel is Strictly favourite

Rachel RileyRachel Riley
Rachel Riley
Countdown maths boffin Rachel Riley has clocked up some impressive figures of her own after bookies installed her as favourite to win Strictly Come Dancing when the line-up was confirmed tonight.

She will take on the likes of Hairy Biker Dave Myers, fashion designer Julien Macdonald and singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor in the new series which has its launch at the weekend.

Riley, a 27-year-old Oxford graduate, has been placed as the early favourite at 4-1 by bookmaker William Hill, with model Abbey Clancy - wife of soccer star Peter Crouch - close behind at 5-1.

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The 15-strong line-up will feature in the launch show on Saturday and will be hoping to remain in the contest until December as they battle for the all-important glitterball trophy.

Others who have been unveiled today are Coronation Street’s Natalie Gumede, Dragons’ Den panellist Deborah Meaden and retired rugby player Ben Cohen, who now runs an anti-bullying charity foundation.

Former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton, who featured in A View To A Kill, Ashley Taylor Dawson from Hollyoaks, radio presenter Vanessa Feltz and Patrick Robinson from Casualty are also among the stars hoping to dazzle on the dancefloor.

Another competition, BBC Breakfast host Susanna Reid, told today how she is “aching in places I’ve never ached before”, after beginning her training for Strictly.

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But Reid who has already appeared on a Children in Need Strictly special in 2011 and ranked in FHM’s 100 sexiest women poll this year, added she was “not in it to win it, just to enjoy it”.

Myers - one half of the BBC’s Hairy Bikers cookery duo - is an outsider for the contest along with golfer Tony Jacklin and Feltz who are all at 50-1.

Also competing in the 11th series of the ballroom dancing show is Waterloo Road actor Mark Benton.

They will all be aiming to follow in the footsteps of last year’s victor, the Olympic medal-winning gymnast Louis Smith.

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Sir Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly will continue to host the show on Saturday evenings, while Sunday results show will see Daly joined by Claudia Winkleman.

Familiar faces such as Brendan Cole, Anton du Beke, Kristina Rihanoff, Robin Windsor and James and Ola Jordan will be back on the show among the ranks of professional dancers. Aliona Vilani will also make a return, replacing injured Natalie Lowe.

Five new professionals will also join the ranks - Anya Garnis, Iveta Lukosiute, Janette Manrara, Kevin Clifton and Aljaz Skorjanec.

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