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OTRC: 'Luck' canceled by HBO after 3rd horse dies

A horse and its rider appear in a scene from the HBO series 'Luck' in 2011. / Dustin Hoffman appears in a scene from the HBO comedy 'Luck' in 2011. (HBO)

The HBO racing drama series "Luck," which stars Dustin Hoffman in his first recurring television role, has been canceled following the deaths of three horses during production, including one who died earlier this week.

The horse-racing drama had premiered less than two months ago and had already been renewed for a second season. On Tuesday, the animal rights group PETA announced that it had sent a complaint to Los Angeles law enforcement following a tip about the accidents from an "insider" at a California race track, where part of the show is filmed. The group said it had called for an investigation.

Production work involving horses was suspended on Tuesday after a third horse died during filming a day earlier.

"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,'" the cable network said in a statement to OnTheRedCarpet.com on Wednesday, March 14.

American Humane Association applauded the cancellation, saying: "Given the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of a horse on Monday and in light of two other fatalities in 2010 and 2011, this is arguably the best decision HBO could have made."

HBO said in its statement that 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," the network said.

"While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won't in the future," HBO added. "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."

The American Humane Association had said earlier in the week that the third horse "had just been inspected and passed by a licensed veterinarian conducting soundness checks and was being walked back to its barn by a groom at Santa Anita Racetrack when it reared up, fell backwards and was injured." The animal had to be euthanized, the group said.

The series is based on Milch's experience gambling and accompanying his father to a Sarasota Springs, NY racetrack from the age of 6. Hoffman played the mobster Chester "Ace" Bernstein, who has just been released after three years in prison. Nick Nolte, 71, portrayed Walter Smith, a former trainer who now owns what he hopes will be a winning horse.

When asked why he decided to take the television role, Hoffman told OnTheRedCarpet.com : "One, Michael Mann was the executive director and I had been an admirer of his work and we worked together way back in the '70s."

The 74-year-old actor added the network also played a role in his decision. "HBO is extraordinary because once they say yes they back off and leave the creators to do what they will," he said.

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