What ‘Luck’ tells us about the horse racing industry

Jeremy Hobson Mar 15, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: HBO is canceling its new horse racing show “Luck” starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. It’s not being canceled because of low ratings — in fact HBO had already ordered a second season after a strong premiere. It’s being canceled because three horses have died in production of the show.

For more, we’re joined by Ray Paulick. He publishes the Paulick Report, which covers the thoroughbred industry and he’s with us from Hot Springs, Ark. Good morning.

Ray Paulick: Good morning.

Hobson: How surprising is it to you — someone who follows horse racing — that three horses died during the production of this program?

Paulick: Well I’m a little surprised that there were three deaths in this program because they’ve used the association that helps television productions oversee animals being used for films and TV.

Hobson: They’ve said actually, HBO has come back and said, we maintain the highest safety standards throughout production. Higher in fact than any protocols existing in horse racing anywhere, with many fewer incidences than occur in racing. Is that true?

Paulick: It’s hard to say. I mean one of the problems with horse racing is there are no national mandated standards used. There are protocols used at some tracks, but not every track across the country, because we’re a state-regulated industry as opposed to a nationally-regulated industry.

Hobson: How often do horses die in the course of horse racing? You follow this industry.

Paulick: Well, it varies from state to state and from track to track but it can run as low as one per 1,000, one per 1,000 starts. Some tracks go months without a death and some tracks have deaths more often than that.

Hobson: Finally, let me just ask you how the horse racing industry feels about this show, “Luck.” Has it been good, has it been bad for the industry?

Paulick: I think most people regard it as a positive because it did shine the light on the thoroughbred industry — on the good and the bad and sometimes the ugly side of it.

Hobson: Ray Paulick is publisher of the Paulick Report, which covers the thoroughbred industry. Thanks so much for talking with us.

Paulick: You bet.

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