We knew Luck would be hardcore.

With Deadwood's David Milch on the screenplay and Miami Vice's Michael Mann in the director's chair, HBO's new ode to horse-racing was bound to be grittier and manlier than Cormac McCarthy' 5 'o' clock shadow.

But are they taking the realism too far? In a single season of shooting, Luck's pretend races have sent two animal actors…

… straight to horsey heaven (or hell, depending on how they lived, we suppose).

“The horses were injured and euthanized during filming of the series, which stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte and has been renewed for a second season,” reports the Associated Press.

Needless to say, PETA is throwing a fit.

“Breakdowns don't just happen,” Kathy Guillermo, vice-president of PETA, tells the Telegraph. “They happen every day, obviously, but they don't happen in the absence of conditions that create them. Horses break down for a reason. Often, it has to do with the condition they're in at the time they're put on the track.”

However, the American Humane Association, a way less intense version of PETA, forgives HBO for downing the poor beasts:

The AHA say they conducted a full investigation and reported that, “the horses were checked immediately afterwards by on-site veterinarians and, in each case, a severe fracture deemed the condition inoperable. The decision was that the most humane course of action was euthanasia.”

The show's first season was shot last year at the Santa Anita racetrack — that alternate universe of desert trash in canes and floppy hats way over in far-east L.A. County.

Like HBO, who seem to be ignoring the PETA tantrum, the racetrack is nothing but stoked to announce that Hoffman and the gang will be back for more in 2012. From an early-February press release:

“This is good news for horse racing and great news for Santa Anita,” said Greg Avioli, C.E.O. for Santa Anita Park. “We're glad the show is off to a fast start and we look forward to working together with everyone at HBO on season two. By all accounts, Santa Anita appears on film as it is in person — breathtakingly beautiful. To be able to command a world-wide stage of this magnitude for a second consecutive season is very gratifying and we believe, very good for business. We can't wait.”

And really, dead horses are nothing new at Santa Anita. Two? That's all? Which is probably why PETA gets a side-swipe in at the racetracks of the world in its statement on the controversy:

“The show's theme is showcasing the dark side of racing, and while it does acknowledge how many thoroughbreds suffer catastrophic breakdowns and how horses are routinely doped, two dead horses in a handful of episodes exemplify the dark side of using animals in television, movies, and ads.”

Congratulations, Mann. In an effort to capture the testosterone-rich death wish that is American horse-racing, you may have just out-realed the real thing.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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