THE DARKNESS STORM AHEAD IN RACE FOR CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE

The rockers are now favourites - and the 'Pop Idol' track is lagging behind...

The Darkness have stolen the lead in the race for the Christmas Number One, according to bookmakers.

On the second day of sales, ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ has seen its odds shortened yet further to 1/3, making them favourites. Former favourite ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by the ‘Pop Idol’ finalists have lengthened from odds of 1/2 to 8/1, according to Ladbrokes bookmakers.

However, it now looks like a three-horse race after Michael Andrews and Gary Jules saw their odds cut in half from 8/1 to 4/1 for their cover of Tears For Fears’ 1982 smash ‘Mad World’, as featured on the ‘Donnie Darko’ soundtrack. Bookmakers face a six-figure payout if the track triumphs, having started on 50/1 odds in November.

Midweek sales figures bear out the odds, with ‘Pop Idol’ currently languishing in fifth place behind the three front-runners and current chart-toppers Ozzy Osbourne and Kelly Osbourne, according to HMV.

Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush said: “The ‘Pop Idol’ 12 are friendless in the market, but there is a long way to go.”

The 2004 Christmas Number One will be announced this Sunday (December 21).