We’ve all heard that the new HBO series Luck, which takes a dramatic and realistic look at horse racing, could do a lot for the economic growth of the sport, which, in turn, could mean a lot to the city of Arcadia because of the presence of .
A gala Hollywood premiere was held for Luck Wednesday night, consisting of a screening of the first episode at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and an elaborate after-party in the Roosevelt Hotel.
I attended with prominent horseman , and what a time we had.
It’s like what Hall of Fame jockey and budding actor Gary Stevens told us: “I’ve been to Hollywood premieres, but none quite like this one. This was huge.”
Stevens, who has lived in Arcadia and Sierra Madre since coming to Southern California in 1984, had one of the greatest riding careers in history, winning the Kentucky Derby three times and winning a Breeders’ Cup race eight times.
He was just one of many invitees at the premiere.
In attendance were , director Michael Mann and the entire star-studded cast, headlined by , Dennis Farina and Nick Nolte.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was instrumental in getting this year’s , and California Horse Racing Board Chairman Keith Brackpool, were among the attendees.
So were , Santa Anita’s president and general manager, and Rick Hammerlee, the track’s vice president of racing, who has a speaking part in Luck.
Breeders’ Cup Classic winning jockey Mike Smith was there with friend Cynthia Naanouh (pronounced Na-new), who tends bar at .
During the after-party, Stevens, who fittingly plays a retired jockey in Luck, was pulled aside to talk about the series and his acting career.
Was in Seabiscuit
Stevens, a racing commentator for HRTV and NBC, played the role of George Woolf in the 2003 movie Seabiscuit. Of his acting career, he said he has been involved in a few projects since then, but because of a lack of funding or other factors, nothing significant worked out.
“Being involved in Luck is one of the greatest things to happen to me in my life outside racing,” he said. “Heck, it is one of the great things to happen to me, period.
“I think Luck is going to do more for horse racing than anything else. You couldn’t buy this kind of marketing. This isn’t just a one-shot movie. This is an HBO series, and you can’t get bigger than that.”
There is no official word the series will be picked up for a second season, but the feeling around the premiere was that it is almost a sure bet that will happen. consists of nine episodes, with much of the filming taking place at Santa Anita.
Dimkich, who worked on Luck as an extra, used one of his many connections to acquire advance copies of all nine episodes. He said, “People have to give it a chance. It’s brilliant, the best thing I’ve ever seen on television.”
The first episode took some criticism from people in horse racing, particularly because of a scene which shows a horse breaking a leg and then being euthanized on the track.
“It’s reality,” Stevens said. “What I can’t believe is that anyone would think that was a real horse. That horse was as stuffed as Trigger.”
Something else that has been criticized is one of Stevens’ lines. Toward the end of episode one, Stevens’ character tries to comfort the jockey whose horse was euthanized by saying, “You’ll get over it. That’s why they make Jim Beam.”
The mention of alcohol in that situation is what bothered some critics.
Stevens said the first part of that line was an ad-lib by him. Then, pointing at the Daily Racing Form’s Jay Hovdey, one of the writers on the series, said, “He wrote the Jim Beam line.”
“No, no,” Hovdey said. “Everything in the first episode was all David Milch.”
Hovdey laughed. Stevens laughed. Gary Dimkich laughed. It was all part of a fun evening.
But it didn’t stop here for Stevens and his fellow cast members. They will all head for Las Vegas on a private jet Thursday evening for another premiere. I guess it is all part of being an actor. And Stevens loves it.
“It’s all been great,” he said.
Luck premieres on HBO Jan. 29 at 9 p.m.