Cowen enjoys day at the races but talk of banking investigation a non-runner
FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen maintained a low profile as he enjoyed a day out with friends over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
The ex-Fianna Fail leader was the biggest name to attend the first day of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, where he had little luck with the horses or the weather.
Mr Cowen made the journey with a group of pals, but he told the Irish Independent he was not expecting any big wins as he enjoyed the festivities.
The Offaly native refused to answer any questions regarding his involvement in the upcoming Oireachtas banking inquiry, insisting that he just wanted to enjoy a quiet day at the races.
When asked for a comment on the inquiry, Mr Cowen laughed, before replying, "No, I have no comment. It's Easter Sunday, you should enjoy it."
Mr Cowen said he was unsure if he would return for the hugely popular Irish Grand National today, but said that he was a fan of horseracing.
"I had a runner in the first race, but no winners," he said.
"I'm not sure about big bets," he added.
Former cabinet minister Michael Lowry was also spotted in a private box at the Ratoath racecourse as he enjoyed the day with a group of friends.
Overseeing affairs in the Parade Ring was former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne, relishing his role as the chairman of Fairyhouse Racecourse.
More than 7,000 people turned out to watch the first day of racing at the two-day festival, up 10pc on last year, and it was also a good day for the bookies, with turnover up 13.7pc to €466,426.
The Cork contingent were all smiles with Rebel Fitz winning the feature €90,000 Powers Gold Cup for the Mick Winter's yard and local jockey Barry Geraghty. Peter Rowe, general manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse, said the increase in numbers was down to recent good weather and the family-friendly amenities on offer a the course.
"We would love to fix a date for Easter in the calendar because the changing dates don't make it easy for us, but the weekend that is in it is always huge for us and we have so many activities and food stalls aimed at families," he said.
While the recent spell of good weather helped to draw customers to the racing festival, the sunshine was in scarce supply on the day itself.
The fashion competition is expected to go into overdrive today when well-dressed crowds pass through the turnstiles for Ladies' Day and the highly-anticipated Boylesports Grand National.