After Third Horse Death, HBO Ends Losing Streak, Cancels 'Luck'

Animal welfare groups applaud the network's decision to halt production.

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After Third Horse Death, HBO Ends Losing Streak, Cancels 'Luck'
Thoroughbred race horses often suffer from heart conditions and their fragile, easily broken legs are a result of overbreeding. (Marvin E. Newman / Getty)

HBO announced Wednesday that it has cancelled the Dustin Hoffman-Nick Nolte horse-racing drama Luck after a third thoroughbred died on the set. Dr. Gary Beck, a California Horse Racing Board veterinarian, examined the horse who was due to race later in the day, and gave him a clean bill of health. But while being led to his stall, the horse apparently reared up on his hind legs, lost his balance and fell, sustaining a critical head injury. The animal was euthanized on Tuesday.

As reported in The Miami Herald, The American Humane Society then issued an immediate demand that “all production with horses be shut down” pending an investigation. 

The network announced that it will air the final two episodes of its first season now in progress, but will not return for the second season that began production last month, fearing more tragic mishaps on set. According to an HBO 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.”

In a statement, PETA, which had tried to give HBO safety advice and urged the network to use stock footage rather than real horses, applauded the announcement. “Knowing that old, unfit, and drugged horses were forced to race for this series, PETA is glad that HBO has finally decided to cancel the show.”

Luck seemed cursed from the beginning. Two horses died during the filming of the pilot and seventh episodes from serious fractures they sustained while running, mirroring the real-world tragedy of thoroughbred racing. The American Humane Society announced that it would work with HBO to ensure that the horses used on Luck are “retired properly”—i.e. not sent to the slaughterhouse as so many injured, used up, or “slow” professional horses are.