HBO agreed to cancel its horse racing-based drama “Luck” after a third thoroughbred died during production of the series, the network said today.
The series debuted on Jan. 29, starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, and there are two more episodes of the first season that will still air, HBO said, but it won’t return for a second season, one that began production last month at Santa Anita.
“It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series ‘Luck’,” HBO said in a release. “Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures.
“While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.
“We are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses, and everyone involved in its creation.”
HBO also supplied a reaction from Mann, the executive producer, and Milch, the show’s creator: “The two of us loved this series, loved the cast, crew and writers. This has been a tremendous collaboration and one that we plan to continue in the future.”
Tuesday, a horse was injured and euthanized at Santa Anita and HBO agreed to suspend filming with the animals after the humane group that oversees Hollywood productions had issued an immediate demand “that all production involving horses shut down” pending an investigation.
The animal was being led to a stable by a groom when it reared and fell back, suffering a head injury, according to HBO. The horse was euthanized at the track.
During filming of the first season in 2010 and 2011, two horses were hurt during racing scenes and euthanized. HBO defended its treatment of the animals, saying it’s worked with the American Humane Association and racing industry experts to implement safety protocols that exceed film and TV industry standards.
Dr. Gary Beck, a California Horse Racing Board veterinarian, said he had just examined the horse Tuesday as part of routine health and safety procedures before it was to race later in the day. The horse passed the inspection, the AHA said.
“The horse was on her way back to the stall when she reared, flipped over backwards, and struck her head on the ground,” Beck said in a statement. An attending veterinarian determined that euthanasia was appropriate, he said.
Dr. Rick Arthur, medical director of the state racing board, said such injuries occur in stable areas every year and are more common than thought. A necropsy will be conducted, he said, which is routine with all fatalities at racing board enclosures.
The first two horse deaths drew criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which said that safety guidelines used in filming failed to prevent the deaths “so clearly they were inadequate.”
Kathy Guillermo, a PETA vice president, said at the time the group didn’t consider the matter closed.
“Racing itself is dangerous enough. This is a fictional representation of something and horses are still dying, and that to me is outrageous,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.