'Britain’s Got Talent' singer Shaheen Jafargholi is rivalling Susan Boyle as a potential winner after a flurry of bets, bookies said today.
The 12-year-old, who staked his claim to the crown with a rendition of the Motown classic 'Who’s Loving You', sung by The Jackson Five among others, has been put at 3/1, from 7/2 by Ladbrokes.
His seemingly unstoppable Scottish rival, who has been the red-hot favourite to walk away with the television programme’s £100,000 (€112,415) prize and sing for the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance, is out to 4/9, from 2/5.
Ladbrokes spokesman Nick Weinberg, said: “We’d resigned ourselves to this year’s series being a one-horse race.
“But Shaheen has changed all of that and punters can’t get enough of him.
“He’s been backed to the hilt, especially in Wales, and if it continues Susan’s favouritism could come under threat.”
In the second episode of this year’s contest, shown over the weekend, judge Simon Cowell dramatically halted the Swansea youngster mid-audition as he sang a version of the song 'Valerie', which was a hit for the Zutons and Amy Winehouse.
The youngster responded by belting out his version of 'Who’s Loving You', to the delight of the crowd and judges.
Cowell told him: “This may be the start of something special for you young man.”
Responding to suggestions that the scene appeared to have been set up, Shaheen was quoted in the Daily Mirror saying: “I was told to bring a second choice with me so I had practised both songs really hard.”
He said he was “delighted” with the judges’ comments.
Hollywood actress Demi Moore, who has already heaped praise on Boyle, enthused about Shaheen on Twitter, saying: “Wow this kid is something else!”
William Hill has priced Shaheen up at 11/4 to win, saying he looks sure to follow in the footsteps of previous hit youngsters George Sampson and Faryl Smith by being a leading contender.
Boyle, 47, is at 1/2 to claim victory.
The bookmaker’s spokeswoman Jennie Prest said: “Susan Boyle has been such a hit already and most of the money we’ve seen has been for her.
“However, there will be some shrewd punters keeping their powder dry – there are more heats to go and you can bet your bottom dollar that the producers will have kept a few gems back to surprise us with.
“There are bound to be other acts, like Shaheen, who capture the public’s imagination and they could turn out to be really good value in the betting.”
Boyle has received international acclaim and recognition since being catapulted into the limelight after appearing on the ITV talent show.
Singer Elaine Paige – whose success Boyle said she dreamed of emulating – are among those who have sent her messages of support.
Paige described her a “role model for everyone who has a dream” and suggested that they record a duet.
In America her story has been featured on US morning shows and news programmes and she was interviewed by satellite from Scotland for the talk show 'Larry King Live'.