Horse Health

“Luck” Ran Old, Unfit, Drugged Horses, Says Necropsy Report

Story by Vickery Eckhoff as printed on

Does HBO’s explanation sound plausible to anyone, given the misinformation it’s shared thus far? I thought not!

Outlaw Yodeler hadn’t raced much, was suffering from severe pain and inflammation and had been given strong pain-killing drugs. Marc’s Shadow was arthritic and hadn’t been raced in four years. Still, both horses were run twice daily during racing sequences to shoot “Luck,” the now canceled HBO series; both suffered explosive fractures; and both were euthanized.

Those are the findings drawn from necropsy and eye witness reports and detailed in a letter sent Monday by PETA Attorney Lindsay Waskey to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. The purpose of the letter was to seek an investigation into individuals responsible for the horses’ deaths.

HBO may be “heartbroken” about the demise of “Luck” but if Matthew Chew, Heidi Agnic, DVM, and David Milch are found to have violated any laws, they may have plenty more to cry about.

Chew was the trainer for both Outlaw Yodeler and Marc’s Shadow on the set; Agnic supervised their veterinary care and Milch was the creator, producer and writer for “Luck.” According to Waskey’s letter, each was involved in “causing two seemingly unfit horses to be overdriven and inflicted with unnecessary pain, resulting in death, in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 597.”

Outlaw Yodeler, a five-year-old dark bay gelding, suffered his fatal injury on April 30, 2010. Marc’s Shadow, a grey, eight-year-old great-grandson of Seattle Slew, suffered a catastrophic breakdown on March 28, 2011. A third unidentified mare was euthanized last Tuesday after breaking her neck and suffering head injuries caused by what HBO says was a fall while being led by a groom.

Does HBO’s explanation sound plausible to anyone, given the misinformation it’s shared thus far? I thought not.

Given what that accident, Waskey’s letter and the necropsy reports reveal, HBO may want to retract its meaningless statement that “We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere” and lawyer up.

Outlaw Yodeler had received a potent cocktail of muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs, including Butorphanol, which is administered to horses undergoing certain types of surgery. He also showed evidence of suffering from severe pain and inflammation and had raced only once in 2010, possibly due to injury or because he was physically unfit.

Marc’s Shadow was arthritic and out of shape according to multiple witnesses. These allegations are confirmed by his necropsy report, which describes “degenerative arthrosis to both the right carpus and the left carpus” and an injury in which his “leg exploded into more than 19 pieces, some of which were poking through his skin,” according to an equine veterinarian who reviewed the report for PETA…..

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35 replies »

  1. Yes the buck stops with the producers, BUT….BUT they had vets and American Humane there to make the decisions as to fitness of the equines involved.

    The vets, American Humane and the owners of these equines ultimately are to blame.

    As I said earlier, the show got cancelled because of weak reviews, high costs and poor/disappointing ratings. The “experts” let the producers AND horses down.

    And PeTA is a great disappointment to me. I think they are jumping on this as a point to support their main agenda….stopping all animal use. Period. That my friends and critics is an unacceptable position.


    • BTW…5-10 year old equines AIN’T old!!!!!! More human BS speak.

      These equines were either unfit or physically and medically compromised. That is the issue here, along with American Humane and the vets not doing right by these equines. They are the experts right?? BIG FAT FAIL!


    • Peta’s main agenda is not to stop animal use, but animal abuse. They have done a great deal of good to help animals. This situation is another horrible case of man’s insatiable greed and their lack of care for their fellow beings.


      • INCORRECT!

        PeTA is about stopping all animal use by man. That you do not know that, and the other outrageous things they have done speaks volumes about your knowledge of the situation. They even came out to support human consumption horse slaughter and their restatementsof same leave alot to be desired for true animal advocates.

        When this org gets involved in rescues of any sizeable level, they euth the animals.

        Sorry, but you don’t know what you are posting about. Look up animal rights v animal welfare for starters.


    • I am in complete agreement with you Denise. But I’ll put it out even further. Anyone on that set that knew about this and did nothing is to blame. The irony with this is that this indeed is the back story to horse racing–no concern for the horses beyond what they can put in the pockets of the owners, trainers, gamblers and anyone else who makes a dime off their struggles, pain and deaths. The lies being told, its the same ole same ole story. Unintentionally this ended up being a true indictment of the racing industry.


  2. And what of the careful and watchful eyes of the “American Humane Association,” those horse slaughter advocates that watch over the hen house. This is what they consider appropriate humane treatment?

    Their pockets full of money, they whistle at the birds in the trees while the ground is covered with the bodies of dead animals. If those from the AHA that were on the set lose their jobs, they could probably go to work for the Advisory Board of the BLM.


    • AMEN, Jerry!!!!!!!!

      American Humane and those vets have the dirty hands….and yes, they support HCHS. I’ll grant you that the producers have the fault of trusting these “experts”. But I don’t expect a Hollywood producer to understand the mechanics and health of race or any performance equine. I fault them for selecting the “professionals” that were hired to do that for them.


  3. Me being a TB person, I am puzzled that they did not consult trainers, vets etc. Did they buy these horses for the set? Maybe an unethical trainer was helping them? Crappy wrangler? Terrible but sounds like they got involved with the wrong crowd to supply horses.


    • They did Karen///they did consult and paid for those consultations and expertise.

      They were liars and posers (the experts)….obviously. I wouldn’t trust American Humane to watch or oversee my cockroaches (no, folks…. I am not over run [we all have pests in our homes, especially in the country], but AHA would tell me one thing and do another and I may never be able to enter my home again).


  4. We, as people involved with horses and rescue, understand what happened. Money and entertainment were the motives. Seems like the real race horse industry, huh? Horses are ‘used’ then disposed of. Immoral, yes. I do wonder what the general public sees though. I think they believe, ‘no animals were injured in making this movie’. I know I used to long ago.
    It is the general public who needs to be as outraged as we are. Preaching to the choir keep us motivated but it needs to be seen but everyone’s eyes.
    Thank you for all you do.


  5. I too thought there was much more to this story than the “Luck” producers, etc., “benevolent,” “caring,” ending of the series due to horse deaths. Significantly, very “telling” was their stating they maintained the highest standards, higher than race horses on race tracks. Meaning, this was a loaded statement with damaging truth behind it. And most likely, someone was going to come forth with the truth: whistle blower! However, the sad and tragic truth, as we know, many racetrack TB’s DO race with damaged legs, illness, etc…as BUTE works wonders and adds to the killing of the horses as seen in “Luck.” Sooooo, where was the Animal Humane Association (AHA) watch guard mandated in film, TV, using animals? The AHA was formed in 939 after many animal deaths. Horses were *purposefully killed in films for a *reality factor. “Ben Hur,” 1925, 100 horses killed chariot races. “Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936, dozens of horses, galloping high speed, purposefully tripped by wire to their deaths. “Jesse James,” 1939, stunt man over cliff on horse, 70 ft. into water. Stunt man lived, horse NOT. And, as late as 1998, “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman,” 2 horses “retired,” and {{30 horses lame }}. As for “Luck” series, stay tuned. i am sure more will be coming forth. R.I.P. Outlaw Yodeler, Marc’s Shadow and the unidentified mare. Pray justice, prosecution comes to many on the “Luck” production set. For I am sure many knew, and if one “knows” and stays silent, they are as guilty as those actually doing the cruel abuse. The killing.


    • I am ashamed of Dustin Hoffman. I always thought he was more of a stand up man. Perhaps I have missed it but where is his public statement regarding this? Is he going to just put this behind him and skip merrily down the road?


  6. Once again.. GREED and FAME.. won out over the well being of these poor horses,,, who DID nothing to HBO or anyone else for that matter.. and then suffered this way.. Think we should just run all the nut jobs that were doing this movie tell they fell down from exhaustion or had stress fractures ..etc.. and see how it really feels.. disgusting display of stupidity ……


  7. PETA has done little to help animals. They kill 95% of the animals in their shelter are active supporters of trapping and killing cats rather than TNR and they support horse slaughter. I hoipe all of those responsible get what they deserve but my guess is PETA is as usual only in it for the publicity. For those who claim PETA cares about animals please give me one example when they have actually helped. We have tried to solicit their help many times and all they want to do is kill the animals. The only big organizations that actually help are HSUS and ASCPA.


    • faith…it isn’t just about killing animals. They have in the past, brought issues to the public. I wasn’t for condemning them but then I saw that they supported HCHS and euth’d beyond human (humane belief…..Vick case comes to mind) belief. They have lost their legitimate credibility with me.

      Again, these wre NOT OLD horses and the producers had vets and American Humane “monitoring”. Guess they are just stupid or evil.


      • Denise, Ingrid began her organization based on Singer’s book Animal Liberation which is grounded in utlitarian ethics. One of the problems with utilitarian ethics is it cannot account for rights or individual justice. Their main principle is the “greatest good for the greatest number” which oftem allows the sacrifice of the few for the good of the many. So while they claim they are an animal rights group in practice they are an animal welfare organization that is more than willing to kiil a few for the good of the many. A true animal rights group believes that all animals have intrinsic value and it is wrong to use them as a mere means. That view is based in deontological ethics and would never condone wholesale killing like PETA does. Call them for help and their solution is to kill. They make false claims about cats etc. They even troll local papers and write articles condeming those of us who support TNR and creating managed cat colonies. They were opposed to the FLorida bill that would require shelters to contact rescue groups before killing an animal. I have no doubt that promoted their invesigation into Caboodle Sanctuary. I have no use for them or their tactics. I am disgusted with HBO and all those who make a living off the pain and suffering of others but I do not support PETA or the American HUmane Society. I do support HSUS and ASPCA. They will help as will the Petsmart Corp in large seizures. WE need HSUS for court batlles and legislative actions. That is what they are good at not running animal shelters. OUr HSUS director in Pa is always there in the trenches ready to help. She helped to bust a dog fighting ring. Where are the dogs looking for homes.


    • i recently saw a video by peta showing the ‘under tack shows’ of young t.b.’s running to their deaths just to attract buyers. at least they did something for the horses. if i caught anyone treating my 2yr.old filly this way, i’d rip them off her and whip their damned arse!!!


  8. Not quite sure why you’re using Barbaro’s pic from his most glorious win. And Barbaro wasn’t old–he was a YOUNG three year old.

    I won’t bore people with his history here–most of you know it anyway.

    I will say I’m glad HBO stood up to the plate and cancelled the show. It wasn’t very good to begin with and then they couldn’t manage racing without killing horses. Just not good.

    I’m hearing that this last horse was being walked back to barn, for some reason reared and flipped over. A horsemen’s worst nightmare come to life. Not sure what could have been done to prevent this–maybe nothing. But I think there were just too many issues that people couldn’t or wouldn’t get a grip on.

    I am sorry for the horse’s lost. But I’m not sorry to see the show go.


    • I’m impressed Margaret. You noticed the Jackson Stable/Barbaro silks….I thought the same thing.

      Good for you and it bothered me too. I kept looking at the photo to story and kept asking “why”.


    • Margaret:

      I replied to you but my post has somehow become vaporized.

      Quickly, I saw the Barbaro/Jackson silks and said WTH! I get it and agree…what’s with the Barbaro/Jackson stable photo for this thread? Nothing ticks me off more than people talking about something without the frame of reference….literally.


  9. Never seen the show but it goes on in similar fashion at every race track in the world..horses dying for greed…both of these horses that died on the track for this show, were not old horses by any means…just crippled beyond use as racers..And that is the producers problem …he could have bought perfectly healthy losers for only a few hundred bucks at any track….The vet was only doing what he has done for years..doping horses to keep them running….Sad for the mare but hundreds of TB’s have been killed by freak accidents..some of the worlds greatest were killed in similar accidents..TB’s are one high wired horse, if you have ever handled any, you know that this is very true..And the racers are even flightier yet…I mite sound like I’m sticking up for these horse killers..but by no means am I condoning what happened to these poor animals…All involved with these horses deaths have to be charged..And in some of these cases, even the SPCA and any of those that claim they are watching out for the horses safety and well being should be charged with negligence in doing their jobs…I’ve read it time and time again…the death sentence has been completed before any one says anything or does anything..Is it only a crime after they have killed the horse??? The SPCA is under staffed and over worked in every part of our world..Alberta only has 3-4 officers for the whole province.. And if you aren’t shocked at that..look and compare our province for area / size to most of the states of the USA for area…then you will be shocked…BUT…if the law really laid it to violaters, instead of slaps on the fingers…Then the abusers mite think twice before abusing…But if one or two charges were laid against the officer who should have stepped in sooner…that will make the few step up and lay charges before the animals are killed…


  10. These poor horses were put through hell! HBO’s cancelling the show was the right thing to do. It probably would have been a failure anyway.


  11. In an interview promoting the series Dustin Hoffman stated that the purpose of the show was to show the reality of horse racing. The reality of horse racing is that parts of it are pretty ugly. It was hard to care about any of the misfit characters. None of them were particularly sympathetic. The truth is that crippled horses are given drugs to mask their pain, and then they are given drugs to mask that they were given the pain killing drugs they run them anyway. Eight Belles comes to mind.

    I don’t know if you remember this or not but Kentucky Representative Ed Whitfield is sponsoring H. R. 1733 Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011 to ban race day performance enhancing drugs.


  12. Let me make a correction to my above comment. I added some information that did not directly tie into Eight Bells. It is hard to think about her last race and not marvel at her extraordinary heart, particularly after the third leg of the triple crown when Big Brown finished last. He had used Lasix in the Derby and the Preakness, but was not allowed to use it in the Belmont.


    • Big Brown didn’t finish last….he was pulled up by the jock (Mike Smith?) and was a DNF (did not finish). We also know he had a seriously shoe problem.


  13. So sad, so unnecessary, so pathetic. It’s scary to think what human greed can & will do to people, & in this case, to innocent horses who had no choice in the matter. Everyone, no exceptions, involved in this horrible case of animal abuse, needs to pay big time!! It will not bring back to life the horses that died, but it might teach others to be more compassionate towards their animal co-stars.


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