HBO cancels ‘Luck’ after third horse dies, should they have done something sooner?

Have any of you been watching HBO’s “Luck”? From what I’ve read, It’s about a recently paroled mobster (Dustin Hoffman) who gets into the horse racing business, and sketchiness ensues. Nick Nolte also stars as a horse trainer. The first season has been airing since early February, with the pilot debuting in mid December. I have HBO, but I usually either DVR the shows I’m watching or use HBO Go, and I have to admit that I have no recollection of the show whatsoever. It just didn’t register with me. (Maybe that’s because I have blinders on and am so focused on the upcoming premiere of “Game of Thrones.”)

Well a third horse just died on the set of “Luck,” after producers were blasted for two earlier premature deaths of horses used in the show. The series was just canceled and production for the second season was totally shut down. There are two more episodes set to air in this season and that’s it. The ratings for “Luck” are consistently about double to triple the ratings for another new HBO series, the critically acclaimed “Enlightened.” So while ratings may have played a small role in the show’s cancellation, it seems the fate of the poor horses were what really pushed it over the edge. Here’s more:

Following the deaths of three horses on the set of its racing drama Luck, HBO announced Wednesday that it will cease all future production on the series.

Executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann made the decision “with heartbreak,” according to a statement from HBO.

“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,” reads the statement.

“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.”

The latest death of a horse came Tuesday, when a 5-year-old thoroughbred reared back and hit its head after a fall, sustaining a severe injury that led to its euthanization.

The American Humane Association insisted that filming involving horses cease, but shooting on the second season of the series continued without horses while the investigation proceeded. Groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for the show to halt all production.

“The two of us loved this series, loved the cast, crew and writers,” Milch and Mann said in the statement. “This has been a tremendous collaboration and one that we plan to continue in the future.”

[From People]

Radar Online has a very extensive analysis of just why so many horses were dying on set. They talked to a VP at PETA, though, so take this for what it is. According to the “equine expert” at PETA, Kathy Guillermo, it was more about the fact that the horses were retired race horses whose bodies just weren’t up to racing again. The horses were apparently compelled to race when they were put on the track, just due to their years of training, and the poor creatures weren’t up to it. Radar also interviewed a veterinarian, who said “Looking over the necropsy forms, it appears to me that these horses had been retired for a reason so I think that people are right to have raised concerns over the show. We all make mistakes and this is a big one on HBO’s part from the horse’s perspective.” That’s sad, and you would have hoped that they would have used more fit and younger horses at least after the untimely deaths of the first two. It never happened though, another horse died, and the show had to be shut down. They probably just used old horses because it was cheaper.

Also, I really like Nick Nolte and I’m kind of sad for him, too. He’s got a ton of movies coming out this year and he was just nominated for his third Oscar, so it’s not like his career is suffering at all though.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

48 Responses to “HBO cancels ‘Luck’ after third horse dies, should they have done something sooner?”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. layla says:

    I thought the 3rd horse died in a transportation issue? At least I think that’s what I read somewhere.

    Either way, very sad.

  2. Anise says:

    “Luck” is not to blame for this. The real culprit is the racing industry. Thoroughbreds are bred for such light bones/heavy muscle that their bones snap under what they’re asked to do on the track. They’re so high-strung that their nerves can shatter at a loud noise(this last horse didn’t die because of abuse or neglect, it died because it “spooked” — all horses have this in them but thoroughbreds are notoriously neurotic and wired all the time). Unfortunately, regular race horses don’t have famous actors near them so no one cares what happens to them. I’m very sad that horses died, but more horses die on tracks all the time and it’s frustrating that this show is getting canceled without any broader call to investigate this industry for its inhumane breeding practices. Racehorses used to be hardy enough to have fairly long racing careers on the track before they went to stud. Now they race for a season and if they win a big race, they’re instantly retired for breeding. There’s no incentive to breed horses with bodies and temperaments that can keep them alive.

    • Lairen says:

      Thanks so much for sharing this. I had no idea – what a saddening situation.

    • Alexis says:

      Not surprised to hear there’s a systemic problem. I’m sure the show was trying its hardest to take care of the horses– canceling the show seems like something you do when it seems like there is no way to avoid horse deaths, knowing that tons of horse deaths are 100% guaranteed to bring bad PR.

    • Hip-ster says:

      All of this is totally true. And regarding the use of retired race horses, in simple terms, is that those horse are HIGH STRUNG and bred to run. They pretty much turned those horses out on the race track and had a ticking time bomb. Thoroughbreds will run no matter what, if they are injured or weak, doesn’t matter.

      The oldies they were using weren’t fit/conditioned enough and ended up getting hurt because they have little to no control over their natural desire to run. Producers should have done a better job monitoring this, because this show could have been wonderful.

    • ahoyhoy says:

      I was coming to comment what you said–with the addition that whoever conceived this series must not have spent much time at the track. Horses die all the time.
      I can’t believe they forgot Barbaro so soon. Horseracing has so many sad outcomes for the animals.

      • AudreyS says:

        Yep, the subject matter of this show bothered me from day 1. I’m glad it’s cancelled. Animals should not be used for entertainment.

      • bluhare says:

        I haven’t forgotten Barbaro. He was lucky to have owners who actually did care for him. They didn’t even bank any of his sperm.

    • Mitzie Martin says:

      Everything you say is 100% true, it is a very cruel sport. I used to own a stable yard catering and every retired racehorse that came to us didn’t have a leg that matched, they were covered in scars, lumps, the hooves were different sizes, most had joint/muscle/tendon problems, all racehorses are backed and raced too early, their bones don’t develop properly, it is like asking a 3 month old baby to run, it just isn’t capable. Very sad. Far stricter guidlines should be brought in to place.

    • Sugarrbunny says:

      First, I want to say I mean no disrespect to any posters here w/what I am about to respond to. My family has been in the racing business my entire life. It is a heartbreaking tragedy what happened on Luck. Retired racehorses should NEVER be placed in a racing situation once retired as they will do their level best to win. That was irresponsible & unforgivable.

      Thoroughbreds are bred for speed & distance. They can be high strung but if cared for properly & trained adequately from a young age they are as levelheaded & docile as a bunny. I agree, wholeheartedly that there are many in the business who see horses as commodity.

      We adore our horses. We never let them run earlier than they should. I have been banned from quite a few big named trainer’s barns as I would send my horses feed to them & demand they be fed it as most trainers feed crap food, because manufacturers give it to them so their bag can read “eaten by Derby winners, etc”.

      We took an amazing horse w/big time potential from a trainer in his 3 year old year because the horse was too nervous trackside. He was triple crown nominated in 2007. His father won millions, as did his grandfather & his great grandfather(Awad, Caveat & Cannonade) , I was more concerned with him & his health. Most people truly adore their animals & are in the business because they love these horses.

      Unfortunately money alway corrupts & that is truly what has happened in many factions of racing but not all. If you watch a horse in his paddock he wants to run and eat and play and roll around.

      Please don’t lump the millions of loving responsible horse people into one ugly catalog. When I lost my prime broodmare a few months ago (she was 28) I was inconsolable. I still burst into tears when I look at her photos. Every year we take in retired racehorses so they can live out their lives running, playing, rolling in the sun) some become pleasure riders & some are never saddled again.

      My heart breaks for the horses who where lost.

      • Katyusha says:

        ^^ *LIKE*

        I’d also like to add that not all TBs are high-strung orangutans. I have a TB who is an ex-racehorse and he defies all stereotypes that are associated with thoroughbreds.

      • Tina says:

        Thank you Sugarbunny for one of the best posts I have read today..and I have been reading about this story for hours. It is stories like yours that need to be front and center. Please consider going on and adding your two cents to the discussion boards and talk feature for “Luck”..Which was a REALLY good show..the best from HBO in awhile and I looked frwrd to it every Sunday like nothing else., I am saddened but we only had two more episodes to go before it ended its season anyway. I am heartened that they did the right thing. Thanks again for your story. I am sure I can hear your broodmare in Heaven whispering about YOU!

      • Pia says:

        Thank you for being one of the good ones!! I have some firsthand experience with the Standardbred (harness racing) industry and the vast majority of the horses are treated very well. If they don’t want to race or just aren’t fast enough they are retired very young, sometimes never seeing a real race. Fortunately for STB’s their conformation is a little sturdier and pacing/trotting isn’t as dangerous as a full gallop, so they tend to have longer careers and fewer injuries. Some race until they are 14! After which they are required to be retired, and make fantastic pleasure riding horses. I know that there are good racehorse people out there like you and your family, and it is sad when poor regulations and unscrupulous people give horse racing a bad image.

      • skuddles says:

        It does my heart a lot of good to know there are good, ethical, caring people in the racing business too Sugarbunny. Unfortunately I have not seen much of that in my neck of the woods – very much the opposite actually. I own a 6 yr old TB Paint, never will race him as that’s not my discipline, but he loves to run in the pasture. And he blows his herd mates away every time 🙂

        My sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved broodmare. I lost a very special TB x gelding many years back and am still not over it yet. Doubt I ever will be completely. But all the sadness I’ve felt is okay because it meant I was blessed enough to have that amazing animal in my life. He truly was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ horses, as I’m sure your girl was too.

    • poppy says:

      animal racing is awful!
      ITA with you.

    • bluhare says:

      Thank you, Anise. Good post.

  3. daz says:

    Nick Nolte is prob peeved that he looses a steady paycheck

  4. mln76 says:

    I am sad for everyone involved but they made the right choice. I was planning on watching this On Demand because I love this creators other show ‘Deadwood’ but I haven’t had time lately.

    • Celebitchy says:

      Damnit, I didn’t know this was by the creators of Deadwood. I LOVE Deadwood. mln have you been watching Justified? Some Deadwood actors have been showing up there and of course Timothy Olyphant stars.

      • mln76 says:

        nope I have to catch up on that one too I love Olyphant. I work way too much.

      • Bodhi says:

        Justified is FANTASTIC. It is one of the best written shows I’ve ever seen. Boyd’s speechifying this week was amazing

    • wtf? says:

      ….me too..followed the trail from Deadwood….hope these guys do something else together now…great writers…i am watching Justified….some episodes leave me kind of meh though….love horses …raised a few….didn’t realize this was happening….good call i think….you never rerun a racehorse that is not fit or old…poor things ;(

  5. brin says:


  6. Rin says:

    As a horse owner I have to say that PETA is the last organization I would look to for advice on horses.

    That said, the Thoroughbred industry–that’s what it is–is incredibly hard on horses. In an effort to create exciting races and another “superhorse” (there can be only ONE) they have screwed up tracks, messed with muscular and skeletal development and done more harm than good.

    Horse racing, in general, is not the problem. Thoroughbreds LOVE to run. They love running against each other. They could make changes to the sport that would make it less exciting, but preserve the safety of the horse and integrity of the breed.

    PETA would have no animal ownership or use and the fact is in the modern world, if you’re not having horses as pets they have no place in the wild anymore, unfortunately as we have shrunk the habitat for most wild things. 🙁

    • Kim says:

      My thoroughbred loves to run free in a field as it pleases. Not on command after being doped up on steroids for the entertainment of humans! Racing for profit/entertainment IS absolutely the problem.

  7. Ravensdaughter says:

    Agreed Ladies. I don’t know enough about the show, but if something could be done to expose the racing industry for what it has become-my understanding is now it’s mostly syndicates that take 2 year old colts, purchase and train them by the dozens to weed out the better ones, then finish them off racing-then “Luck” would have done more than served its purpose. Also, medicating horses to race who shouldn’t run at all–another huge issue.
    C/B-Please post any news re:investigations, petitions, etc. If some powerful people in Hollywood pay attention to this, maybe something could change the very dark turn the racing industry has taken.

  8. Gene Paremsan says:

    cant wait for Game of Thrones!!!

  9. cerulean says:

    Those poor poor horses. The show was interesting but it is understandable that they would cancel it. There isn’t a way to do it and make it safe. Maybe it should have been about show jumping like Jilly Cooper.

  10. samanthalous says:

    Never watched this show, its all about Girls which looks really good. CB get on the guy who plays Adam and all his nerdy hotness.

  11. lucy2 says:

    I never even heard of this show until the reports of the horses’ deaths started. What a sad story. It’s sad for those who worked on the show, but clearly it needed to stop.
    I can’t stand PETA, all they want is attention. I wish the media would go to actual experts and people with the right intentions to discuss the aspects of stories like this.

  12. Kaboom says:

    I’d say this is about avoiding pressure groups from damaging the HBO brand. The accidents that required the horses to be put down were all that with no negligence or high-risk production involved and the Humane Society was on set all the time.

    However PETA seems to have tried to leverage the misfortune to start a turf war with the Humane Society, probably to wrestle some of the lucrative movie monitoring business from them and HBO (and their parent company Time Warner) would rather kill a show than have those nutbags on their sets.

  13. SixxKitty says:

    Was so looking forward to this show. Guess it ran out of Luck.

  14. Ana says:

    Poor horses. Races with animals (like horses, dogs and now pigs) should be banned! Same with bull fights which are a disgusting tradition!
    Animals are living beings, the same as us and they should not be used as mere entertainment “tools”.
    Only when humans learn to respect them, will they be able to truly get along with each other and find (everlasting) peace!

  15. original sandy says:

    that’s sad, it had a great cast also, i really like nick, but glad to hear he is in more movies to come.

  16. S says:

    Milch made both Deadwood and Luck along with NYBD Blue and so many others, but he is also an avid race-horse owner himself. He’s always talked about his love of horses, and that was his primary reason for having the opening credits of Deadwood display a horse, though none are truely the stars of the show. Could you please mention stuff like this in your article, CB, or do a little Wiki research even??

  17. mek821 says:

    I’m so tired of your disdain for PETA. Kathy Guillermo is VP of lab investigations for PETA. Nowhere in her bio does she claim to be an “equine expert.” That term came only from Radar Online. She has, however, done amazing work for 20 years exposing animal cruelty, particularly in the beauty industry.

    Please leave the commentary on social issues to those more informed on the subject matter and stick to the idle celebrity gossip which you do best.

  18. Ayame says:

    Look, you don’t have to like PETA, but there’s no need to mean quote Kathy Guillermo’s well-respected expertise on equines. Why don’t you take a second to research her rather than blindly shitting on her knowledge simply because you take issue with PETA. My god, the audacity of this organization that does all they can to the end the myriad ways humans abuse and mistreat animals.

    • Gayle says:

      I am always suspicious of knee-jerk slams of PETA. I assume most who do are carnivores in 9.9/10 cases, so predisposed to be disinterested in animal issues, except MAYBE for something universally condemned, like dog fighting. HSUS is fine, but they are clearly all about appeasing the public and so politically conservative in everything they put out there. PETA is not afraid to be disliked to forward their aims.

    • Minty says:


      You said it better than I ever could. Thank you!

  19. Ranga says:

    I remember watching Melbourne Cup race one year and one of the horses lower leg (forefoot?) just snapped and it was flopping around all over running on a broken leg, god it was so gross and the commentators didn’t even mention it, NO ONE said anything for the whole televisation (its goes for ages, its a big deal here).

    I won’t support horse racing or participate in any Melbourne Cup events since then as I know it’s not even uncommon and the horses are so often put down.

  20. Tiffany says:

    It is sad about the horses.Its sad about the show. This was one I was looking forward to each week and it is getting good.I mean the show it good.

  21. skuddles says:

    I shouldn’t even comment on this story – just reading the headline makes my blood boil and brings tears to my eyes. This situation absolutely sickens and DISGUSTS me!! All precautions taken my ASS!! I was raised around horses and there is no way this many “accidents” could have occurred without something being seriously awry in how they were handled. I’m glad they shut that motherfu**er down permanently. Three dead horses in just as many months??? You do not put retired Thoroughbreds on a track and expect them not to panic. You do not even show them a race track. The horse that reared up and fell backwards, breaking it’s neck in the process, flipped out because it knew exactly where they were taking it. Most retired racers require a fair bit of rehabilitation before they can be safely used in other disciplines – otherwise they remain too high strung and can seriously hurt you or themselves. This is a hot blood breed and being forced into racing, and at a very young age, does some really bad sh*t to their heads. It’s the main reason why so many are sold for meat at the end of their careers – few people are willing to take on the task of trying to retrain them. Horses, like all animals, are not merely expendable props for our entertainment. Do not tell us these were just ‘unfortunate accidents’ – their deaths are a classic case of humans failing horses in a most shameful way.

    Sorry for the crazed rant should anyone read this … it just makes me so very angry and sad! Cannot keep my cool when it comes to the mistreatment of our equine friends 🙁

  22. Rux says:

    I watched the entire season and it is a very good show. The writing is flawless, the charachters are well developed and the plot keeps you going. I have to say though, in the first or second episode, on the show they killed a horse because he broke his ankle and I cried. When it comes to animals, I have the softest heart and tear ducts in the world. When I read about three horses actually dying when in production, I vowed not to watch that show and sent HBO an e-mail. I am so glad that HBO decided to pull the plug on the show. I will miss the story/charachters but this was a smart move by HBO.

  23. Kim says:

    Animals as any form of entertainment is SICKENING! I cant believe what people will do to living creatures in the name of entertainment. Really shows what we are like as a society and it isnt good.

    Horse racing should be banned. I dont care how well some people treat their race horses there are many who dont and it still results in unneccesary deaths of a horses if they break a leg while racing etc. If it happens naturally while a horse is running free in a field then so be it but racing them for profit or entertainment is unnatural & cruel.

  24. Ron says:

    All of you people are a bunch of whinners…….the show didnt kill these horses the veterinarian did….and lets get real who really cares about a few horses anyway….how many 10’s of thousands chickens and cows are slaughtered each and EVERYDAY….and if this show had such bad ratings then why was it that they were filiming the 2nd season….the real truth is HBO are a bunch of spineless bitches becuase they are afraid of PETA…