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People and Business

Not everyone's a winner Top bloodline Bet on Banks Failed to score A bigger cut
THE CITY'S finest were out in force under the sun at Cheltenham yesterday to watch the Queen Mother officiate over a marvellous festival.

Nick Wells, the former County NatWest corporate financier who did the Blue Arrow deal in the 1980s and has popped up at Rae Brothers, was enjoying the show. Mr Wells is advising the maverick retail entrepreneur and Sears winner Philip Green.

Mr Wells was sharing an entertainment tent with Martin Smith, an affable Irishman who used to head up Phoenix, the corporate finance boutique, and who now heads the corporate finance arm of Donaldson Luffkin & Jenrette in London.

DLJ is doing well, having just poached two senior bankers, Richard Boath and Michael Meinhardt, from Salomons. The former was head of the financial institutions group at Salomons, and the latter did the same job in German- speaking countries.

Sadly Mr Smith was enjoying rather less success on the course. His horse, King's Road, came in fourth in the first race.

AMONG THE throng I bumped into Mark Bradstock, one of the UK's leading trainers, based in Wantage, near Oxford. Mr Bradstock's father-in-law is Lord Oaksey, the famous broadcasting race pundit, and his father is David Bradstock, a leading London insurance broker. Mr Bradstock, among many things, trains horses for Piers Pottinger, a senior partner in City PR firm Bell Pottinger.

Unfortunately for Mr Pottinger his horse, which was due to run yesterday, was withdrawn at the last moment as Mr Bradstock decided it wasn't quite up to the rigours of the rolling Cheltenham course.

Mr Pottinger's horse, Eishken, is named after an estate on the Isle of Lewis owned by his friend Nick Oppenheim, owner of Northern Leisure.

Mr Pottinger entertained the party by pointing out that he shares his birthday - 3 March - with Charlie Brooks, the former racehorse trainer and TV pundit; Sir Mark Prescott, another legendary trainer; Sir Peter O'Sullivan; and Bob Dylan, the popular American folk singer.

One wag said they had something else in common - they could all sing, apart from Mr Dylan.

LUNCH WAS enlivened by a spirited discussion between Steve Norris, the former Tory transport minister and current road transport lobbyist, and the MP for Newmarket, Richard Spring, the shadow sports minister.

They concluded that Tony Banks is desperately unhappy as sports minister and that he would be a much better bet as the new mayor of London.

YET ANOTHER City figure doing a lot better in the Square Mile than at Cheltenham is Bob Michaelson.

Mr Michaelson's horse Celibate failed to place in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Mr Michaelson is chief executive of Sagitta, a fund management company owned by Wafic Said, the Middle Eastern entrepreneur who recently donated pounds 20m to Oxford University to set up the Said Business School.

Mr Michaelson, a former senior figure at Mercury Asset Management and Citicorp, told me Celibate is suitably named considering its parents, Shy Groom and Dance Alone.

TRISTRAM RICKETTS, chief executive of the British Horse Racing Board, was in bullish mood.

Mr Ricketts said the board, which took over the running of British racing from the Jockey Club at the start of the Nineties, is determined to get a bigger cut of the pounds 5bn British punters bet each year on the geegees. Mr Ricketts says he's confident the board can negotiate a bigger slice to plough back into horse racing.

I asked whether he had any tips. "Loads," he laughed. "But I have to keep them to myself in order to keep my friends [the owners] happy."

E-mail: j.willcock@independent.co.uk