Shirley Ballas shock favourite to replace Len Goodman as Strictly judge – years after hubby left her for former pro Kristina Rihanoff
DANCING queen Shirley Ballas is the favourite to replace Strictly’s Len Goodman after dazzling bosses at a secret screen test.
The Brit — a former judge on American version Dancing with the Stars — was a “complete natural” during auditions, a source said.
She even outshone job rivals, show favourites Anton Du Beke and Brendan Cole, who also tried out.
Incredibly, Shirley, 56, has already been touched by the Strictly love curse.
Her dancer ex-husband Corky Ballas, 56, left her for former Strictly pro Kristina Rihanoff after he became her teacher in 2003.
Sources said producers are keen for a woman to join the panel alongside old hands Darcey Bussell, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood.
Last week’s try-outs at the Strictly studios in Elstree, Herts, also saw turns from ex-pro Karen Hardy and Ireland’s Dancing with the Stars judges Loraine Barry and Brian Redmond.
Chief Strictly choreographer Jason Gilkison screen-tested too.
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But the insider said: “Shirley had by far the best screen test and was a natural.
“Producers want her to replace Len because of her wealth of experience both in the dance world and already being a judge on the telly.
“But nothing has been signed off yet — top BBC bosses have to give the final approval as this has become its biggest talent job vacancy.”
Shirley won the International Latin American Dance Championship with her first husband and partner Sammy Stopford in 1984.
She divorced second hubby Corky in 2007 but his relationship with Kristina is said to have fizzled out the following year — her first season on Strictly.
Kristina, 39, is now with former England rugby star Ben Cohen, 39. They were partnered on the show in 2013 and have a daughter together.
Last night a BBC spokeswoman said: “As yet no one has been offered the role of Strictly’s new judge.”
Anton Du Beke