So far, opinions vary widely about the new HBO series Luck, particularly within the Thoroughbred racing industry. In a new commentary, Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell, who was recently awarded the Eclipse Award of Merit for his many achievements in the business, expressed his views on the series and its potential impact on the racing industry.
Read his thoughts below.
Dogwood Stable through the years has brought about 1,200 new people into racing. But, if these people had been exposed to the HBO series Luck, that number would not have totaled 200.
Thoroughbred racing is certainly in need of exposure—other than Derby time—but I cannot drum up any enthusiasm for the material that is being provided by this new Sunday night cable series. Heavily reviewed and promoted, it is being seen by a great many people. And, if I were a novice, and got a glimpse of Luck, I would not want to go anywhere near a racetrack. And, also, if I were a novice, I would also not know what the hell the characters were talking about.
I am certainly not a prude, and have definitely had occasion to brush up against the seamier side of life—and the seamier side does appear at racetracks—but I have never seen an aggregation of more clearly evil, degraded, unhygienic bozoes than that which frequents and plies its trade at Luck's Santa Anita. Every conversation, every routine race track transaction is conducted in a ridiculously furtive, suspicious manner.
Gamblers make the game go. There is no doubt about that. Thank God for them! But…I have been to Santa Anita on numerous occasions and I have always seen many decently dressed, respectable looking gamblers/patrons milling about.
Certainly Luck's creator, the brilliant David Milch did not reach his exalted standing by chronicling the activities of “The Beautiful People.” The gritty underbelly of life has been his specialty. So, I was not expecting another Secretariat.
The credentials of the cast are most impressive, and the piece is brilliantly shot. I will certainly give Luck that. The dialog is heavily laced with every imaginative version of four-letter words, but this is standard procedure in this day and time. More puzzling is that “inside” racetrack parlance or jargon is thrown about with no attempt to explain its meaning. This procedure is a characteristic of Milch, It is my understanding that he feels the viewer needs to work at it a bit. But how many neophytes would grasp expressions like “losing the shake,” or “Bug Boy,” or “a one-other- than?”
Believe me, I know that for this series to be titillating, it has got to be crammed with intriguing drama, romance, colorful characters, and there is some mystique in that element. But I think—in the interest of some accuracy—that the attractive, sporting, pageantry side of racing should be given at least a nod. Racing horses is a game that has attracted the Queen of England, the Aga Khan, the Arab Sheikhs, Winston Churchill, J. Edgar Hoover; families such as Mellon, Phipps, Vanderbilt, Whitney, Farish, DuPont ; Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, John Forsythe, Bob and Beverly Lewis, Jerry and Ann Moss… and I could go on and on. These are people who could afford and participate in any endeavor. They sure would not have gone for racing if it depended on blending in with the greasy congregation at Luck's version of Santa Anita.
The series will certainly bring more Southern Californians to Santa Anita, because they are there, and Luck is much in the news. But, as far as the rest of this sport/industry is concerned, David Milch did not create this vehicle to be a much-needed boon. And—disappointingly—it will not be.
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