HBO Horseracing Series ‘Luck’ Not Lucky for Horses

HBO has a new series titled “Luck” about the horseracing industry; it premiered Sunday, January 29.  With big stars like Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina and Jill Hennessey, it is sure to command viewers.

Horse racing has a long tradition in the U.S. and other countries.  Make no mistake — it is a cruel practice for the horses involved.  They suffer injuries, are transported over many miles in cramped trailers and endure being drugged and whipped.  All in the name of money.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) had contacted the show’s creator David Milch before filming began to discuss and recommend safety methods for the horses.  But all efforts were ignored.  With shooting of the first season completed and the second about to begin, PETA is currently in communication with HBO in an effort to recommend animal safety.

The ironic thing is so far two horses have been killed as a result of their participation in the making of this show.  During filming of the series’ pilot episode, the script called for a horse suffering a fracture during a race scene, which necessitated euthanizing the poor creature.  As real life sometimes imitates fiction, the irony is that actually happened on the set. Since then one other horse was killed in the name of “Luck.”

Reportedly, the scene in the series pilot where a racehorse was put down was not the actual racehorse that was killed during the filming.  One comment on from someone identified as “Kentucky Girl” who claims involvement in thoroughbred racing for 30 years said “I don’t know how they captured the horse dying. It was so realistic it bothered me.”

It was so realistic, though, I had to ask the question.  I contacted PETA and spoke with Kathy Guillermo.  She confirmed PETA is in contact with HBO and was informed the horrific scene in the pilot where a horse broke a leg and was euthanized was filmed through a combination of a using a “trick horse” and animatronics.

The positive thing about the series is it aims to show the seedier side of horseracing.  An HBO promo states “’Luck’ takes a provocative look at the world of horse racing – the owners, gamblers, jockeys and diverse gaming industry players.”  The negative thing is: are the needs of the horse actors being met?

What About the Horses?

Guillermo told me statistics indicate an average of three race horses per day break a bone.  “That’s almost more than I can wrap my head around,” she said.  Guillermo confirmed HBO is now in communication with PETA and “answering all our questions” regarding the series “Luck.”

PETA applauds the recently released movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” filmed entirely using animatronics, as I imagine do most animal advocates.  With the sophistication of computers in this day and age, is it time to stop all animal participation in film and television? Watch how the Apes movie was created using human actors in place of animals.

How You Can Help
A Care2 petition has been started.  It states in part:

“The series “Luck” is commendable for exposing the dark side of horse racing, including the abuses that horses suffer regularly. Unfortunately, this message is tarnished by the preventable horse endangerment currently taking place on the set.”

Please consider signing the petition.

Related Reading:

The Grand National: Sporting Event or Animal Abuse?

The Deadly Sport of Horseracing

How Many Times Should a Jockey Whip a Racehorse?


Julie Botsch
Julie Botsch3 years ago

Thank You.

Laura M
Laura M5 years ago

I believe it has been reported that over 3 horses died on this set. That is an outrage! I am glad this show has been cancelled but it was too little too late. I hope this atrocity serves as a warning to any other shows/movies that want to use real animals in films. In this day and age, real animals should not be used in films. Animals are not for our amusement.

Diana Wolf
Diana Wolf5 years ago

Al S did you bother looking up what the ASPCA did do?

Anne Cole
.5 years ago

Al S., why are you putting this on the ASPCA? They are not the problem, the movie industry is, and also the people who pay to watch this crap.

Al S.
Al s5 years ago

ASPCA has failed to do its job, as they have many times in similar scenarios of filming.Hopefully they will do a better job in the future, or drop this activity and concentrate in areas where they have performed better such as Humane Education.

Diana Wolf
Diana Wolf5 years ago

I wish this article would mention that the ASPCA was involved in the filming of this show. I haven't seen it and do not follow horse racing, but I did look it up with them as I do most movies and tv shows.

Sarah n.
m G5 years ago

This show brings to the fore than animals die in human hands. yes they do and remember that the NEXT TIME YOU ARE EATING ONE. I can't stand hypocrites.

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Whoops, I meant Debbie, sorry for the "typo".

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Debbit, it's too bad you refuse to ride out of a false sense of being "kind" to the horses, and it seems you don't understand why horses even run. Look at the size of those horses (usually bordering 16 hands and up, 1200 lbs or more) and the jockeys at about 112 - 115 lbs, and they carry a riding "whip" which is technically a short "bat" that no more BEATS that horse than you would be beaten by a house mouse. The jockey's usually tap them on the shoulder to help guide them right or left, many of the times, because again, their stirrups are so short, they cannot use leg pressure to tell the horse to "move over", and the taps are sometimes on the rump, again, not inflicting any pain. Stewards watch constantly and any jockey who uses the whip excessively is penalized, the horse, if it wins or places, disqualified and money forfeited. The jockey's livlihood depends on his winning, and if he has a track record of being called for "excessive whipping", he's not likely to get many "mounts". Most of the better jockeys "hand ride" and if you watch the videos of them, you'd see that being the norm with them. I could post one of Julie Krohn, up on the grandsire of the mare I rescued. He won by 12 lengths and a very prestigious stakes race. She normally doesn't even carry a whip. If she does, it's tucked under her arm.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe5 years ago

When I was a kid, my mom & dad liked horse racing, so we went to the track a lot. I would end up crying because the jockey's would whip the horses. I understood the concept of that, but I hated it.
I have never been since.
A friend of mine has 10 horses on her property and she lets them out in the pasture during the day and they come back when it gets dark to go in the barn. She asked me to go riding with her, but I just like to pet and talk to them.
They are such gentle animals, I can not image beating them to make them run.
Petition signed.