HBO pulls plug on 'Luck'

In an unexpected development, the producers of the HBO series "Luck," which is set at Santa Anita, announced Wednesday afternoon that production of the show would be discontinued immediately.

The announcement came one day after a horse used in production had to be euthanized at the track after rearing over and striking its head in the stable area. The horse was the third to be euthanized since the show began production two years ago.

"Luck" is in its first season, with two episodes remaining in a nine-episode run. The second season was already in production, and at least two episodes had been completed.

"It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series LUCK," read a statement issued by HBO.

"Safety is always of paramount concern," the release continued. "We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing 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 are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses, and everyone involved in its creation."

HBO also issued a statement from the show's co-creators, Michael Mann and David Milch.

"The two of us loved this series, loved the cast, crew and writers," the statement said. "This has been a tremendous collaboration and one that we plan to continue in the future."

Late Wednesday evening, the California Horse Racing Board announced that it will "conduct a thorough investigation, which will include a postmortem examination and toxicology testing," regarding the fatality on Tuesday.

"The CHRB is assured by those onsite at Santa Anita who are responsible for equine health and safety that every precaution was being taken to protect the horses appearing in the HBO program," said a release from the racing board. "In fact, because the filming was taking place in an enclosure within the CHRB's jurisdiction, the level of care for these animals exceeded the level of care for animals on other filming locations. Everyone involved in the handling of the horses that appeared on 'Luck' is licensed by the CHRB and qualified to do so."

Earlier Wednesday, the network had announced that filming of racing scenes for the series had been suspended after a horse that was scheduled to be part of the production reared and suffered a head injury that required the horse to be euthanized.

According to officials, the horse was being led to his stall on Santa Anita's backstretch by a groom when it fell backward and suffered a severe head injury. At the time of the incident, the horse was not involved in the production of a scene for the series, the officials said.

During 2010 and 2011, two horses that were participating in the filming of racing scenes for the series suffered catastrophic injuries, leading to criticism from animal-welfare groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The horses suffered the injuries while racing.

The use of horses during the production of the series was being overseen by the American Humane Association, which said in a statement Tuesday that the horse who died had passed an inspection by a veterinarian just prior to the accident.