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‘Luck’ runs its course after three horse deaths

David Brancaccio Mar 15, 2012

David Brancaccio: The cable network HBO is canceling “Luck,” the Dustin Hoffman-Nick Nolte series about horse racing. This after a third horse used in the filming had to be put down — euthanized.

Bill Finley covers the horse racing industry for ESPN.com. Mr. Finley, thanks for joining us.

Bill Finley: I’m glad to be here, good morning.

Brancaccio: So before the cancellation of the show, the network HBO and the show producers defended themselves, saying that horses do die in regular horse racing, that they were just experiencing in their show what horse racing experiences all the time. Now is that true?

Finley: Yes it is true. And you know, to use a corny use of words, “Luck” had bad luck. Generally, horses break down in races at about a rate of one in 1,000 — 1.5 in 1,000. So, in “Luck,” what they were doing was simulating races, with real racehorses that were no longer running, and it was very realistic. So, the odds were that sooner or later some horse would be catastrophically injured.

Brancaccio: Bill, you say “break down.” What actually happens? Is it often broken legs and things like that?

Finley: Yes. I mean, horses will break legs — that’s the most common injury. But you’ll see horses die from heart attacks and a few other things from time to time. The most common industry is a broken leg. Now, it can range from relatively minor to the horse has just a hairline fracture, and that would require just four to five months worth of rest and they can usually run again. Second would be that a horse breaks a leg so seriously that they can never run, but they can save their lives. And the third, and of course worst scenario, is that the leg is so badly broken that they cannot save them, and it is a very real part of life of horse racing.

Brancaccio: Bill Finley covers the horse racing industry for ESPN.com. Mr. Finley, thank you.

Finley: My pleasure.

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