HBO have cancelled big-budget racing horse drama Luck, starring Dustin Hoffman, after a third horse was killed in production on Tuesday.
According to the channel, the final two episodes of the show’s first season will continue to air as normal. But the show will not return for the second season which entered production last month.
The US 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. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.”
Luck’s ratings have dropped significantly on Sky Atlantic since last month’s opening episode and cynics have suggested that despite their protestations, HBO won’t be too bothered about losing a show which has struggled to get more than 500,00 viewers after hitting over a million for its premiere.
The drama, which focused on the seedy side of life at the races, starred Dustin Hoffman as wealthy businessman Chester âAceâ? Bernstein who had some dubious ties to organised crime and am unhealthy relationship with the racetrack.
Executive producers Michael Mann and David Milch have spoken of their sadness about the end of the project: âThe 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.â?
At first, HBO had agreed to temporarily halt filming pending an investigation, but had defended their work practices: “Recent assertions of lax attitudes or negligence could not be further from the truth.” The network said it partnered with the American Humane Association, as well as with racing experts, “to implement safety protocols that go above and beyond typical film and TV industry standards and practices.”
Yet insiders have claimed that David Milch and director Michael Mann are well-known for their demanding and at times obsessive working conditions, which might not have been suited to work with live animals.
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 #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.
The final episodes of Luck will air on Sky Atlantic on Saturday 17 and 24 March at 10pm.