HBO axes drama after horse deaths
US horse racing series Luck has been axed by HBO chiefs after a third thoroughbred died during the making of the drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte.
Luck, about the seedier side of racing, will show the final two episodes of its first season now in progress, HBO said. But the series will not return for the second season that began production last month.
"While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won't in the future," the channel said. "Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision."
The move was made with David Milch, the show's creator, and Michael Mann, his fellow executive producer on the drama that brought Hollywood star Hoffman to series TV. It was a high-profile project for the premium channel that stakes its reputation on such fare.
HBO said it was "immensely proud" of the series and those involved in it, and the producers said in a joint statement that they "loved this series, loved the cast, crew and writers".
Retired jockey Gary Stevens, who co-stars in Luck and was in the racehorse film Seabiscuit, tweeted his support to the HBO series, saying: "So bummed. Peace out to all my family in (hash)luck."
The American Humane Association, which oversees animal welfare on Hollywood productions, said that in light of the three deaths "this is arguably the best decision HBO could have made".
The group said it would work with HBO to ensure that horses used on Luck were "retired properly".
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which had been sharply critical of the production, welcomed the move and offered advice to HBO and the producers if they decided to resume it.
"Peta will be calling on them, as we have done from the start, to use stock racing footage instead of endangering horses for entertainment purposes," the group said.