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‘Rings’ best Oscar bet, say bookies

Murray, Penn in dead heat for best actor award
/ Source: Reuters

From the Las Vegas Strip to the betting shops of London, odds makers said Tuesday that ”The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is nearly a sure thing to win the Oscar for best picture this year.

“Seabiscuit” is a long shot, true to form, and while ”Mystic River” may have a chance, “Lost in Translation” and ”Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” are both likely to be also-rans, bookies said after Academy Award nominations were announced Tuesday morning.

Charlize Theron is the favorite for best actress for her performance as a serial murderer in “Monster,” while “Lost in Translation” star Bill Murray and Sean Penn for “Mystic River” are in close to a dead heat for Best Actor.

In Las Vegas, where oddsmakers are prohibited from actually taking bets on the Oscars, the Stardust casino put “Lord of the Rings” at 6-to-5 and Bally’s gave it 4-to-5, or more than even odds of winning.

Ladbrokes in London, which takes bets on the Oscars, put ”Lord of the Rings” at 1-to-3 and said its oddsmakers thought twice about taking bets on the best picture category, since they see the Middle Earth picture as a shoo-in.

That’s in line with a popular vote. A snap online poll by Yahoo, showed 68 percent of 58,459 fans preferred the Hobbit epic which garnered 11 Oscar nominations.

Ladbrokes put “Lost in Translation” at 5-to-1, “Master and Commander” at 25-to-1 and “Seabiscuit” at 100 to 1. Ladbrokes’ chief oddsmaker Warren Lush put “Mystic River” at 3 to 1 -- and admitted he had placed a bet on the picture before nominations were announced.

Lush said the best director race could be interesting as well. Roman Polanski came from nowhere to win last year.

“Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson is the favorite at 1-to-3, but Sofia Coppola, at 3-to-1 for “Lost in Translation” and Clint Eastwood, at 7-to-1 for “Mystic River,” had outside chances, said Lush.

“I think that is where the upset will be,” he said.