By Claire West

Christine Lagarde of France is now Odds On favourite with bookmakers William Hill to succeed Dominique Strauss-Khan as permanent head of the IMF, having been a 20/1 outsider when betting began.

Trevor Manuel has emerged as the main challenger and
Bookmakers William Hill have slashed the S African finance minister's odds from 10/1 to 4/1 clear second favourite, while Mme Lagarde is now red hot odds-on favourite at 1/2.

'These two are now attracting the bulk of the money staked, and it is looking as though the decision may rest between the two of them although there could well be a role for Swiss contender Philip Hildebrand, who is a 12/1 shot' said Hill's spokesman Graham Sharpe.

'These type of markets tend to be quite volatile in their early days as people rule themselves in or out of the running.'
Gordon Brown has yet to attract any serious bets and his odds have been shunted out from 8/1 to 20/1, while Hills also report money for 50/1 shots Peter Mandelson and Alistair Darling.

'Mr Brown appears to be busily failing to rule himself out of the running, but there is no betting support for him at all'

LATEST WILLIAM HILL IMF ODDS....1/2 Lagarde; 4/1 Manuel; 11/2 Dervis; 7/1 Ahluwalia; 10/1 Shanmugaratnam; Steinbeck; 12/1 Hildebrand; 14/1 Carney; 20/1 Brown; 25/1 Weber.