THERE'S not much you can get one of the world's most famous rock stars for Christmas.
Except, perhaps, a 24-hour breather.
Everything was rosy yesterday for U2's Bono as he stepped out in suitably-hued shades to enjoy his annual St Stephen's Day jaunt to the Leopardstown races with family and friends.
"I got a day off for Christmas," Bono revealed with a smile, as he wrapped an arm around his wife Ali at the entrance to the pavilion.
The welcome day of rest came after a meeting with the big man himself, Taoiseach Enda Kenny; a rocking Christmas party for staff of the band's management at Harry's Cafe Bar on Dublin's Hanover Quay and a bout of Christmas Eve charity busking on the streets of Dublin in recent days.
Upstairs yesterday, Bono and clan -- including his daughters Eve and Jordan -- were sitting with filmmaker Jim Sheridan.
Nearby, artist Guggi, accompanied by sons Eliah and Noah, revealed he didn't know which horse he was going to have a flutter on as he pondered the seven-race card.
But those in the know -- including former Agriculture Minister and former bookie Ivan Yates -- were also left a bit puzzled after one of the well-backed horses, Bog Warrior, took a lot of punters' money with him as he took a tumble in the big race of the day. Bog Warrior is owned by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who was nowhere to be seen yesterday.
"We missed the one we wanted," admitted Mr O'Leary's brother, Eddie, as the Gigginstown stud secured two winners in Leopardstown, two in Limerick and another up North. But many punters were happy enough as their favourite man to follow, trainer Willie Mullins, instead delivered Blackstairmountain safely home.
"I'm having a lovely Christmas but no winners," smiled actor Stephen Rea, as he studied the form with trainer Mouse Morris in the owners' and trainers' bar.
"I've been working on 'Underworld 4' with Kate Beckinsale. It is about werewolves. You can't move but for vampires and werewolves. I think I'm becoming a werewolf," he laughed.
Earlier in the day, the bookies sent three fellows running to lay off a "big bet" on Touch Back, owned by Limerick businessman JP McManus, who flashed past the post in the first race.
Dail Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett revealed he had to "stand down" as a steward for the sixth race of the day as he owns a whisker of the so-called Dail horse, the 11-4 favourite Donnas Palm.
"I'm told the horse is feeling better than the owners are today," joked one of the 12-owners, former TD GV Wright, with no sighting of syndicate member Brian Cowen.There were also plenty of eyes on the television screens, including those of racing commentator Ted Walsh, as jockey son Ruby Walsh delivered the veteran Kauto Star first past the post across the seas in Kempton to a historic fifth triumph in the esteemed King George VI Chase.
"It was one of the worst St Stephen's Days in history for the bookies," Hayley O'Connor from Ladbrokes revealed, as professional punters and seasonal racegoers had a flutter on Kauto Star.
But, after snow called a halt to the St Stephen's Day festivities last year, there was a hint of the good auld days in the air. The festival continues today.