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New Mexico

"Luck" moves ahead... Slowly, but surely

The debut season of the David Milch creation continues to build nicely, with the character developments providing enough of a tease for what’s to come.

I had a great call to my home on Sunday night about why certain things took place on the show. Horse racing related questions that I promised I would be able to answer once I had seen the show.

The question was regarding why the character of trainer Turo Escalante (played with an almost defiant ease by John Ortiz) would risk running one of his horses in a claiming race if he didn’t want to lose the horse, and had in fact, put front bandages on the horse in an attempt to steer away prospective bidders.

That’s an age-old tactic in the claiming game -- much like the card games being fancied by Jason Gedrick’s character Jerry, the claiming racket is a lot like poker -- you show your opponent what you have, and you risk losing it all. 

The storyline I find myself being most intrigued with is with jockey Leon Micheaux, played quite well by up-and-coming actor Tom Payne, a recent graduate of the world-renowned Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Payne’s ease of handling the difficult lingo of the jockey, and the relationships between trainer (Ortiz) and jockey agent (the amazing Richard Kind) are making his character one to follow.

Interwoven within the storylines of the equine is the slowly developing saga of Dustin Hoffman’s lead role of Chester “Ace” Bernstein’s desire to open a casino on the grounds of Santa Anita Park. There are a great deal more shenanigans sure to come in this plot line, so I would advise some patience here. Once this begins to play itself out, I can see this story and the characters to come in and out of it easily becoming the direct link to the future of this show.

Nick Nolte’s ability to captivate a viewer by merely grunting a few words here and there is simply amazing. Nolte plays the role of hardboots trainer Walter Smith, who has himself quite a runner about to make a splashy debut. 

The fictional storyline regarding this particular horse’s pedigree and tragic background loosely ties into one of the great breeding/insurance scandals in the history of the thoroughbred industry. (For more details, check out the link to this informative piece on the great Alydar:
I can’t sit here and tell you that this show is for everyone. I can definitely see where the common viewer would be turned off by the constant imagery of the racetrack crowd being dominated by foul-mouthed, oxygen-inhaling, paranoid, womanizing degenerates rushing to get to the windows before the next race reaches post time.

By that same token, I’m admittedly one of those common viewers who failed to appreciate the storytelling of a family run funeral home in “Six Feet Under“, or the wiry characters on the Baltimore underground of “The Wire”.

Earlier this morning, I came across a story online regarding potential equine accidents during the filming of this show, and how certain special interest groups were coming out of the woodwork to protest the show.

May I please offer a word or two of advice?

Shut up.

Your over-reactionary scare tactics are only going to make matters worse for an industry still coming to terms that “Luck” is not a show created to promote horse racing.

Much in the same way that a majority of the characters in the “The Sopranos” were portrayed as violent, hateful criminals, you’ll notice the show didn’t open with a disclaimer that the mafia supported or endorsed the show.

Horses die. 

Whether it happens on a racetrack during an actual race, or during the actions of serving as a prop in a Hollywood production, this is the true definition of reality television.

While tragic, it is also a fact. 

If you’re so turned off by it, let me recommend that you shut down the bigscreen while contemplating the crappy programs you let your kids watch. Last time I checked, programs like “Jersey Shore“, “16 And Pregnant“, and “Teen Mom” popularize some of the most decadent behavior in the history of television.

You’re preaching about an animal on a fictional show?? Sure, the human chooses to be made to look like a fool on the reality programs. More the pity that when given the choice to not look less than human, some people still choose the easier route.

We’re two episodes in with “Luck”, and I’m still all in. 

I’m happy to see that the show has already been picked up for a second season. 

HBO can count on my support for at least one more year.


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Older Comments about "Luck" moves ahead... Slowly, but surely...

Luck--shuts down production after the 3rd death of a race horse. Good decision? Bad decision?
A disgrace
I still love the show. I look forward to each episode. Milch always tells great stories with great characters.
Slowly developing saga is right, track regulars - like us can hit the ground running with the story line, but my other family members couldn't hang with the esoteric lingo and "what happened there" questions. I hope the ratings keep this one going, the great acting and plot have me hooked.
After two episodes, I still love Luck. I haven't found any part of it to be boring. Good advice to the detractors.
"slowly developing saga" Watching this is more akin to watching the universe spread out in real time. I have a rule of thumb for movies and TV shows. Movies, if it doesn't interest you in 12 minutes stop watching because it won't. TV 6 minutes.

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I have had the pleasure of seeing the business of racing from several unique angles.

As a writer, I enjoy the time spent with horsemen, interviewing some of the most amazing people the sport has to offer.

As a radio talk show host, I get to hear the excitement of the jockey moments after winning a big race and the thunderous noise of a live crowd growing louder as the stretch run gets closer to completion.

As a paddock show host, I see the horses, not just as numbers and statistics on a sheet of paper, but as strong, incredible, vulnerable and energetic animals, capable of either being brilliant or chaotic as any animal at any given moment.

I have been covering the sport of horse racing for nearly 20 years, starting as a young, roving reporter in Southern California before moving to New Mexico in 2002.

I have had the extreme pleasure of watching the sport of kings thrive and succeed here in the Land of Enchantment.

In addition to the incredible quarter horse talent on display here on a daily basis, we’re also blessed to be the home state of record-setter Peppers Pride as well as one of the biggest longshot winners in Kentucky Derby history, Mine That Bird.

I’ll be here frequently offering reports and selections on races throughout the state of New Mexico, from Sunland to Zia, from Albuquerque to Ruidoso, and from my hometown track of SunRay Park and Casino, where I work as paddock show host when I am not doing my “other” job as a radio talk show host on FOX SPORTS AM1340.

Please feel free to let me know if you like or dislike what you see here. I firmly believe you learn something new every day in this sport, so if you have something to teach me, feel free to let me know.

I hope you enjoy the work here and throughout the pages of Horse Racing Nation. I’m proud to be a new member of this extraordinary family.

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