This is a pretty unpleasant story all round -- both creatively speaking and in terms of the animals' welfare. The horse-racing series starred both Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, and was executive produced by David Milch and Michael Mann, and was poised to become a long-running show at the network. HBO will now run the remaining episodes of the first season but all footage from the second season -- including the completed first episode -- will remain unaired. Initially it appeared that HBO would continue to film scenes that didn't involve horses for the time being, but that quickly changed and production is shutting down with immediate effect.
In a statement HBO said: "Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horse-racing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. 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."
We imagine this may have been a harder decision to make had "Luck" been performing better in the ratings, but the series was drawing only modest viewing figures and it was something of a surprise that a second season was ordered so quickly in the first place. But with mounting pressure from groups like PETA, the horse deaths were becoming a PR nightmare for the cable network and the decision, while still likely a tough one to make, was ultimately a no-brainer.
At the end of HBO's statement, Mann and Milch added: “The 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.”