IT WAS Ladies’ Day yesterday at Royal Ascot, traditionally the most hotly-anticipated event in the calendar for dressing up to the nines. As usual, the racegoers didn’t let us down – among the extravagant hats on show were a blackbird, a giant ice-cream cone, a creation made out of 800 marshmallows, and even a headdress themed after the MP expenses scandal. (The design featured an enormous receipt bearing the legend: “I paid for this hat on expenses”, as well as a bath plug, once claimed for by former home secretary Jacqui Smith, and rubber ducks and a tiny bird shelter, in memory of MP Sir Peter Viggers’ £1,645 claim for a Swedish wooden duck house. Genius.)<br /><br />The highlight of the day’s racing was Yeats’ record-breaking fourth Gold Cup win, netting a tidy sum for risk-takers the country over. Even Dragon’s Den star Peter Jones was spotted celebrating in the paddock after the race with racing tycoon Michael Tabor and Irish investor John Magnier, one of the owners.<br /><br />And today’s action looks set to be a corker as well, with another tip for the City racing set: South Easter, the horse owned by Investec co-founder Bernard Kantor, running in the King Edward VII stakes later. Poor Kantor was bitterly disappointed at Epsom a few weeks ago when South Easter was pulled out of the Derby due to a cough – especially since his firm had just shelled out an estimated £400,000 to sponsor the festival for five years.<br /><br />Still, bookie Paddy Power has early odds of 11/2 on the horse for today, so here’s hoping it’s second time lucky.<br /><br /><strong>MASQUERADE BALL</strong><br />To the glorious surroundings of the Natural History Museum on Wednesday night for the Courvoisier Square Mile Masked Ball, being held in aid of Boris Johnson’s charity for disadvantaged young people, the Mayor’s Fund.<br /><br />True to form, the flaxen-haired Johnson raced in and out of the event to show his face and make a speech – clutching, rather than wearing, his black-and-gold mask.<br /><br />“I just want to give a small plug to Gordon Brown,” he quipped. “Thanks to his magnificent mishandling of the expenses scandal, I no longer turn on my TV to see Robert Peston standing in front of a jagged downward graph… Bankers are no longer the most unpopular profession in Britain – that distinction now belongs to politicians.”<br /><br />Cue raucous cheers from the audience, who went on to eat, drink and dance the night away, first at the museum and then at the afterparty in swanky nightclub Whisky Mist.<br /><br />At final tally, the auction raised over £30,000 in aid of the mayor’s charity, including a £10,000 bid for a painting by Banksy, another £10,000 for a luxury trip to the Seychelles, and a whopping £1,000 for a bottle of Courvoisier XO Imperial cognac worth £95.78 Proxy-Connection:keep-aliveCache-Control:max-age=06ndash; simply because it was signed by Boris. If that’s not a green shoot of recovery, The Capitalist doesn’t know what is.<br /><strong><br />RIGHT SIR FRED</strong><br />Sir Fred Goodwin may be bemoaning the lost part of his pension pot, but elsewhere, people are celebrating. An email arrives from Paddy Power, shouting about a lucky punter from County Antrim who put £4 on at 750/1 when the bookie pushed out its odds on Goodwin handing back any of his pension pot in February, after The Shred refused a direct request to return it from City minister Lord Myners.<br /><br />The gamble has just netted the chap in question a £3,000 windfall – equivalent to the amount the newly-impoverished Goodwin receives in just three days. That’ll wipe the smile off his face.<br /><br /><strong>BOSSY BOOTS</strong><br />Over half of UK bosses have become worse at motivating staff since the beginning of the recession, according to an article on the Keep Britain Working campaign website. <br /><br />But perhaps most of us here should be counting our lucky stars. Apparently, they’ve located a telecoms boss who’s prone to chanting: “hit this target, keep your job; hit this target, keep your job”, another boss who made staff clean toilets because she had sacked the cleaners to save money in the recession, and a charity boss who brought in a hunting rifle and pretended to fire it at staff to make them work harder. Are they for real?<br /><br /><strong>BONDING SESSION</strong><br />Ten lucky City A.M. competition winners – along with their fathers – gathered on Wednesday evening at Quo Vadis restaurant for a Glenfiddich whisky tasting session in celebration of Father’s Day. The readers enjoyed an hour-long tutored tasting of the brand’s finest whiskies – aged 12, 21 and 30 years – followed by a four-course meal. Sounds like male bonding at its very best.