Feb. 12 - British and Irish turf accountants see three cardinals as frontrunners to replace Pope Benedict XVI as head of the Roman Catholic Church. Travis Brecher reports.
The bets are in on the papal race -- after Pope Benedict XVI announced he'll be the first pontiff to resign since 1417. Britain's largest bookmaker is ranking Peter Turkson of Ghana, Canadian Marc Ouellet and Nigeria's Cardinal Francis Arinze favourites to lead the 1.2 billion strong Roman Catholic Church. William Hill offered odds of 3/1 for Turkson, while Oullet was priced at 7/2 against, meaning successful gamblers would win seven pounds for every two staked. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILLIAM HILL PRESS OFFICER, RUPERT ADAMS, SAYING: "Peter Turkson is the red hot favourite as it stands. Interestingly, we put him in at five-to-one yesterday when the big announcement occurred. He's been backed quite heavily, in from five to three-to-one, which would suggest that some people think that he's a genuine contender." On Monday, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power had the same three cardinals as leading contenders, but placed Ouellet as favourite ahead of the two Africans. Britain's Ladbrokes narrowly made Turkson its initial frontrunner. Two outsiders on the Paddy Power list of contenders showed the Irish bookmaker's customary eye for a publicity stunt. Dark horses included the British scientist and atheism campaigner Richard Dawkins on 666/1 and the fictional Father Dougall McGuire, a hapless priest from the 1990s Irish TV comedy show 'Father Ted', on 1000/1 -- the same odds as the Irish U2 singer Bono. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILLIAM HILL PRESS OFFICER RUPERT ADAMS, SAYING: "I didn't put Bono in the betting because obviously you have to be a little bit more qualified to actually get into this." Arinze and Benedict, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, were both among Paddy Power's favourites in 2005 when the German was elected to succeed Pope John Paul II.