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  Luck (2012)

 
Series 1, 9 episodes (2011 - 2012)

Character Actor
Chester Bernstein Dustin Hoffman
Dennis Farina Gus Demitriou
Turo Escalante John Ortiz
Joey Rathburn Richard Kind
Marcus Kevin Dunn
Renzo Ritchie Coster
Jerry Jason Gedrick
Walter Smith Nick Nolte
Rosie Kerry Condon
Ronnie Jenkins Gary Stevens
Michael Michael Gambon
Producer Michael Mann
Writer/Producer David Milch
 
Luck is a star studded American Horse Racing drama created by David Milch and starring Dustin Hoffman. The pilot episode was directed by Michael Mann. It is a sometimes confusing yet still a fascinating study of the colourful characters; the jockeys, trainers, owners, gamblers and railbirds who populate horse-racing tracks. [The pilot was released in the series also as episode 1]

Series 2 was in the middle of production when it was cancelled due to the death of three horses. HBO have said that it can't guarantee the safety of horses and until such time the second series is on hold.
 
Series 1 Episode 1 (Pilot)
As the series begins, mobster Chester "Ace" Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) leaves federal prison with vengeance on his mind. He’s picked up by his driver/bodyguard, Gus (Dennis Farina), who fronts as the owner of a $2 million Irish thoroughbred purchased by Ace and which, it seems, ties into his payback scheme.

Exactly what that scheme is remains as murky as the racing/gambling lingo. Creator David Milch (“Deadwood,” “John From Cincinnati”) and director/exec producer Michael Mann (“Heat,” “Miami Vice”) show as little concern with conventional plotting as they do with helping the audience understand what’s going on. Instead, they introduce us to an assortment of racetrack folks who serve as the narrative framework of the story.

Horse owner Walter Smith (Nick Nolte) is haunted by past mistakes but seeks redemption in his new horse, a champ in the making that young exercise rider Rosie (Kerry Condon) would like to race as its jockey. A trainer named Escalante (John Ortiz) knows how to work some shady deals as well has the horses, but he can’t figure out how to do right by the track veterinarian (Jill Hennessy) he won’t admit he loves. Finally, a quartet of gamblers (Kevin Dunn, Ritchie Coster, Jason Gedrick and Ian Hart) who live in a fleebag motel near the track exist on the hope that betting gives them.

Ace’s horse, an Irish Thoroughbred, is in the care of a surly Peruvian trainer, Turo Escalante (John Ortiz), who makes elliptical utterances in a thick accent but is actually no more incomprehensible than most of the other characters who mutter cryptic half-phrases.

At the race track the four dissolute gamblers - Jerry, Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie - pool their meager resources to make a Pick Six bet that could be worth millions. A key to their fortunes is a long-shot horse trained by Turo Escalante, a self-made success story with loads of talent and few scruples. The quartet go on to win the maximum payout of just under $3m.

[Editor's Note : The track is Santa Anita and a Pick 6 with 3 x 1 x 3 x 4 x 5 x all (9) picks with a $2 per line minimum is 1620 lines and $3240. Not the small amount these guys had]

Also in the ensemble is a grizzled trainer-turned-owner Walter Smith (Nick Nolte), a somber soul who’s saddled with guilt over an unexplained secret. He sees classic potential in an untested thoroughbred with impressive bloodlines.

We also meet Joey, a stuttering, broken-down agent, played brilliantly by Richard Kind who can’t get a gig for his client, Leon (Tom Payne), who struggles to keep his weight down, while he can’t get rid of his former client Ronnie (former jockey turned actor Gary Stevens), who is trying to stay sober. Then there is the track veterinarian, played by Jill Hennessey in smart, against-the-grain casting. Finally there’s Tom Payne as a young, cocky jockey, Kerry Condon as an exercise girl, and real-life jockey Gary Stevens, as a boozy, half-washed-up veteran jockey.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 2 (a large improvement over episode 1)
Ace Bernstein is summoned on short notice to lunch with his old business associates Nick DeRossi and Isadore Cohen, who has flown in to discuss Bernstein's race track/casino gaming proposal for Santa Anita. Cohen brings a message from Mike Smythe, supporting anything Ace wants to do. Ace lays out his plan to put up the money as a background investor (since he is a felon); Cohen and DeRossi will get a piece of the deal and their company name on the signs. Mike can take his cut from their share, says Ace.

After the meeting, Gus asks an agitated Ace how he ever got involved with someone like Mike. Ace explains that Mike was an excellent businessman twenty-five years ago, before he got involved with cocaine.  After they split their partnership, Bernstein kept a co-op apartment they had in New York. When Ace's grandson started using the place, the cops were called during a loud party and found cocaine that Mike was stashing at the apartment. Pressured to roll over on Mike, who claimed the coke was the grandson's, Ace refused to rat anyone out, shouldered the blame and did the time.

Ronnie Jenkins trades barbs with Rosie the exercise girl before a workout. Watching from the stands, Walter Smith is pleased with Rosie's time on his horse. Watching the training, Escalante gets more background on Smith's horse:  Gettin'up Morning - a three year old colt bred by the former Derby winner Delphi. Later, Rosie makes a plea with Smith to be promoted from exercise girl to jockey. Smith doesn't respond, but greets Ronnie Jenkins, glad to see a familiar face from Kentucky, and invites him to stop by to chat.

Jerry loses a chunk of his Pick 6 winnings to nemesis Leo Chan at poker, which upsets Marcus. Renzo wants to put in a claim for Mon Gateau in a race later that day since he was key to the success of their Pick 6, but Marcus is dubious. Given that Escalante has dropped him down to a lower priced claiming race so soon after the win, Marcus suspects there must be something wrong with the horse. Renzo puts up the money anyway, wanting to gift the horse to his fellow Degenerates and enlists a trainer named Goose, who walks him through the process of making the claim.

Veterinarian Jo questions Escalante's judgment, putting Mon Gateau in a cheaper claiming race after winning last out. He says he is running the horse with front leg wraps, to scare away prospective claims..

Marcus berates Lonnie for drawing attention to their win with his new flashy suit. When Lonnie insists the insurance scam women bought it for him, Marcus warns Lonnie that the women may be scam artists and likely have taken out a life insurance policy on him. 

Still upset from Tattered Flag's death, apprentice jockey Leon expresses concern to his agent Rathburn that the Escalante horse he is scheduled to ride, Mon Gateau, might be unsound (since Escalante has dropped him into a lower claiming race).  Rathburn urges him to put what happened out of his mind and to not second-guess Escalante's motives.

Ace and Gus visit Escalante at the races and, later, their Irish Horse, Pint of Plain.  Escalante introduces Leon to them as "Bug Boy" and suggests that the horse he's riding, Mon Gateau, would be a good bet. After nearly getting caught in traffic, Leon pulls Mon Gateau back, circles the field and wins.

Renzo's excitement is tempered when he learns there's been another claim on Mon Gateau - trainer Chris Mulligan. When lots are drawn  to determine who gets the horse, Mulligan wins over Goose and Renzo.

Walter Smith and Jenkins reminisce about Delphi (Gettin'up Morning's daddy) and how he was killed by Kentucky "quality" - wealthy horse owners who had over-insured the horse, then broke his leg and called it an accident. Smith still blames himself for not being able to stop it. 

Lonnie backs out of the slip-and-fall insurance scam with the two ladies but they seduce and drug him. While he tries to have sex with them in a hotel room, they attack him instead, bloodying his head.  In a struggle, Lonnie busts out a glass door and flags down a landscaper to help him to safety. When Lonnie is dumped back at the motel, Marcus and Renzo struggle to pull him inside just as Jerry arrives after winning back his money from Chan.

At The Long Shot bar, Walter tells Rosie he's not having her ride his horse. He asks Rathburn to hook Rosie up with a jockey agent at Portland Meadows - and books Jenkins to ride Gettin'up Morning instead.

As Ace sits in bed, he and Gus review the day. Ace tells Gus to set up a meeting with the board of his investment company where he will pick a new go-between on the track deal.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 3 (now we are getting into stride)
As the day begins, Ace Bernstein (Dusbin Hofflid) walks the treadmill in the hotel gym, and gets a surprise visit from his parole officer seeking another piss test.  At the track, Walter Smith enters his horse Gettin'up Morning, naming jockey Ronnie Jenkins to ride.  As Escalante and Gus watch Pint of Plain's workout, sirens wail, indicating a riderless horse is on the track. Exercise girl Lizzie manages to pull the horse up and averts a collision.

Lonnie, having received a fractured skull from the insurance agents who beat him after their "slip and fall" scam went awry, is discharged from the hospital to Marcus and Renzo's care. Jerry shows up late and the Degenerates discuss their plan to buy Mon Gateau from Mulligan (the "cowboy" trainer who ended up outshaking Renzo after the claiming race).  When Jerry talks to Escalante to get his opinion on Mon Gateau the trainer at first downplays the horse, but eventually tells him to check with him about who should do the vet exam should they manage to purchase the horse.

In the boardroom of Bernstein's company, a young analyst named Nathan Israel, raises a question of strategy regarding the purchase of the race track, attracting Bernstein's attention.

In the racing office, Walter Smith draws the rail position for his horse  - the one post he didn't want.

Bernstein, Gus and Israel ride the elevator to Bernstein's suite with the hotel manager, who suspects the woman on the car with them is an interloper.  Identifying herself as Claire LeChea, she quickly pitches Bernstein on her Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which uses prison inmates to care for old racehorses.   In his suite, Bernstein grills Israel; the kid has a cocky need to prove his intelligence which Ace knows will irritate Mike Smythe, his nemesis. He orders the kid to come back tomorrow and tell him everything he's done in the interim. If he likes what he hears, he'll give him a million dollars salary to act as his go-between with Mike.

Jerry comes to a price with Mulligan for Mon Gateau, provided he passes the vet test. While the vet, Jo, examines the horse, Jerry talks to Goose,  telling him that the Degenerates want to give him five percent of the horse - but they want Escalante to train the horse.  

Leon's routine to get his weight down is taking a toll. The apprentice jockey faints leaving the steam room and splits a gash in his head. When the doctor examines Leon, Rathburn implores that the Bug Boy be allowed to ride the next day.

As Walter Smith watches from the press box, Jenkins is bumped from a horse in a race, breaking his collarbone again.  Smith tracks down Rathburn; Jenkins was supposed to ride his horse in two days.  At the Long Shot bar, Leon expresses concern about his weight to Rathburn, who later tries to talk up Leon to Smith, but the trainer decides to call Rosie back from Portland to ride for him.

Escalante insults Jo the vet, telling her he suspected she had tipped Mulligan to Mon Gateau's soundness, causing him to claim the horse, but he's now decided it wasn't her.  The four Degenerates visit Escalante and their new purchase and the trainer runs down the list of expenses related to owning and training a horse, then gives them some carrots to feed Mon Gateau.

As the day winds up, Jerry's back at the poker table swapping insults with Chan; Jo the vet shows up at Escalante's house and they head to the bedroom; Jenkins snorts painkillers and buys whisky; Walter Smith screws up the courage to call Rosie's agent at Portland Meadows; Ace and Gus review the day.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 4 (the horses are coming together)
In a poker game at the local casino, Jerry loses hand after hand to his nemesis Leo Chan.  Jerry's increasingly agitated by Chan's taunts, but the dealer, Naomi, is reluctant to call the floor supervisor. When she finally does, Chan offers to move the game to his restaurant, giving Jerry a betting advantage and bringing Naomi along as well. Jerry accepts.

Rosie is back from Portland Meadows, ready to ride the Old Man's horse Gettin'up Morning in place of the injured Ronnie Jenkins, who is on a downward spiral, self-medicating with prescription drugs topped with Cutty Sark. Escalante points out the Bug's weight gain to Rathburn, who is already well aware of the problem. Marcus and the other degenerates spend time with their new horse and fret about Jerry's absence.

Ace (Dustbin Hofflid) has a business meeting with Claire in his hotel suite to discuss her program for connecting convicts with ex-racehorses. She asks him to cover the cost of a guard and the insurance liability, and he's willing to sign on once he reviews a budget. Ace meets with Mike on his yacht, and the two former partners have a tense discussion of the proposed track/casino project. Mike tells Ace he wants in, but not before suggesting Ace might be out for revenge. Ace assures him that's not the case, and also warns Mike not to talk about his grandson. Ostensibly setting aside their mutual apprehension, they shake hands and Mike agrees to take his cut from the other partners' minority stake.

Rosie dons the Old Man's silks for the highly anticipated run by Getting'up Morning and Rosie's first ride at Santa Anita. When the gates open, Gettin'up Morning is left at the gate and gives up half-a-dozen lengths to the field. Rosie saves ground and patiently eases the colt to the outside, closing ground and finally taking a commanding lead, winning by ten widening lengths in an incredible time. At the test barn, the Old Man hears the horse cough. When he has the vet scope him, he's concerned that the horse has bled. That evening as Rosie and Leon have sex, she recounts the details of her astounding first win.

Marcus, moved by Gettin'up Morning's performance, is inspired to go save Jerry from himself. Renzo and Lonnie think that he's sick, but instead of having them drive him to the hospital, Marcus has them search for Jerry. When the trio track Jerry down in the back room of Chan's restaurant in Chinatown, they find Jerry in the grips of a gambling mind-game. News of Marcus's condition gets him out of his stupor, and Jerry bolts, making a vulgar suggestion for Chan.  Back at the Oasis, the Degenerates discuss Jerry's obsession and continue bonding. 

Ace takes a meeting with Nathan Israel at the Bernstein penthouse and agrees to give Israel a million dollar salary to act as go-between with Mike. That night, Ace reads a note from Claire and discusses with Gus the possibilities of what problems Mike may present for Israel.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 5 (the horses are coming together)
Reading the morning paper, Ace and Gus are surprised to discover that their horse Pint of Plain is entered in a race. When they call Escalante, the trainer tells them he's just using the horse to fill in a slot as a favor to the track, and it's 90% unlikely the horse will run. Skeptical, Ace and Gus visit the stable to confront Escalante in person. Ace suspects Escalante plans to run the horse with the Bug jockey to increase the potential for a big payout on a bet with longer odds. Preferring that his horse win no matter the odds, Ace instructs Escalante to replace Leon with the best jockey available, threatening to take away the horse if Escalante doesn't comply promptly.

At the Oasis motel, Jerry and Marcus receive a visitor: Kagle, the track security guard, has been fired for loan-sharking, and wants to know if Marcus dropped the dime on him.  Kagle confides to Jerry that he's been on a bender since it happened and ended up arrested in Nevada. He asks  for a loan with the understanding that he'd pay "retail vig." Jerry hands Kagle a thousand dollars, to be paid back when he's on his feet, and sends him on his way.

Marcus berates Jerry for lending Kagle money and lets slip that he's been reading Jerry's diary. Furious, Jerry storms off -- but first orders Lonnie and Renzo to take Marcus to the hospital for his labored breathing. The doctor warns Marcus his heart condition is exacerbated by stress and asks if Marcus has anyone to talk with, to which he replies, "a horse." Later, high on the Valium the doctor prescribed, Marcus confides to Jerry that he worries so much about him he thinks he might be "queer for" him. Jerry assures him he's not; he's just not accustomed to friendship.

Escalante agrees to put top jockey Ramirez  on Pint of Plain in place of the Bug Boy and Ace leaves five thousand dollars for Leon as a consolation. The trainer breaks the news to Rathburn, and gives him the money to split with his jockey. Rathburn meets Leon at The Long Shot to break the news, first telling him that he's guaranteed the mount on another horse Escalante trains, Mon Gateau, from now on. When Joey hands Bug the cash, Ronnie Jenkins, who's shooting pool within earshot, chimes in that it's probably a kiss-off fee - and Joey has to admit Bug Boy's been replaced on Pint of Plain. Ronnie then informs Rathburn that he's hired a new Agent. Feeling inadequate, Rathburn reaches out to his ex-wife, Lynn, offering to take her and their son out for dinner, frustrated that she doesn't return his calls.

Ace is disappointed that Claire didn't show up to collect the check. The next morning, she arrives after a sleepless night, and Ace invites her to join them at the races later in the day. When she returns home, she finds the amount, $367,000, is well beyond what she had requested. 

At the track, the degenerates proudly wear their new "Foray Stables" T-shirts. Ace invites Escalante to watch the race with him, Gus and Claire. During the race, a horse running in front of Pint of Plain loses a shoe, which strikes the Irish horse, opening a gash in its right hind leg.   The horse breaks stride for a moment, but regains its momentum and wins the race impressively. Concerned for the horse, Ace instructs Gus to take Claire home, while he spends the night sleeping outside the horse's stall.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 6 (The degenerates win)
Ace, Gus and Israel contemplate a cake from DeRossi, Cohen and Mike that says "Wait to Go Greek," debating whether it is a spelling error, icing error or something more ominous. Ace meets with his parole officer, who informs him that buying into a racetrack would not be a violation of his parole, and questions whether Ace's motives might include some measure of revenge.

Rathburn has a conversation with his ex-wife Lynn, who's detached and uninterested in his efforts toward reconciliation. When she hangs up on him, he proceeds toward what seems an attempt at suicide, taking a handgun in the bathroom and aiming it at his head. As an earthquake hits, Joey misfires and the bullet ricochets, hitting him in the cheek. At the hospital, Joey tries to convince the doctor that he's no danger to himself-the rock bottom moment has apparently cured his stammer. 

Escalante fields a call from Gus, and reassures him the quake has had no effect on Pint of Plain, but Ace still wants to stop by and check on his horse in person. Rosie rushes to Walter Smith's barn to see if Getting'up Morning is alright, and the trainer tells her that he's received a lawyer's letter claiming bills from the Kentucky farm are still owed for Getting'up Morning. Rosie suggests he meet with Hartstone, a trainer at the track who works part-time as a lawyer to straighten it out.

Israel meets with Mike's group on his yacht, and informs him that Ace is currently making an offer on the track, dependent on the legislative approval of slot machines, which Cohen infers, would only come with the agreement from the Indians. Mike, seeing Israel as highly adaptable, asks him if he'd like to receive two paychecks instead of one, and act as a mole on their behalf.

The degenerates are off to the races to watch Mon Gateau with Leon the Bug Boy riding.  The horse jostles another horse in the stretch and comes in first, but an inquiry is posted. The stewards rule that there is no change-Mon Gateau wins. The owners, Goose included, gather with Escalante and Leon for the Winner's Circle photo. 

The degenerates are off to the races to watch Mon Gateau with Leon the Bug Boy riding.  The horse jostles another horse in the stretch and comes in first, but an inquiry is posted. The stewards rule that there is no change-Mon Gateau wins. The owners, Goose included, gather with Escalante and Leon for the Winner's Circle photo.

Rosie rides Getting'up Morning in his second start. Ignoring the Old Man's warning not to use the whip she cracks the horse twice as it explodes toward the finish, winning by six lengths and setting a new track record. At the Winners Circle, the Old Man is outraged, snatching the whip from Rosie's hand and throwing it in the trash.

Rathburn and Jenkins continue their acrimonious relationship the next morning at Clocker's Corner.  Jo tries to apologize to Escalante for their previous fight, but he makes any kind of reconciliation difficult. Angry, she decides not to tell him the news that she's pregnant.

Rosie apologizes to Walter for using the whip. He accepts, but tells her that now that the horse has a track record, things are going to get crazy. A man in a suit approaches them out of the dark and asks Walter, "How's my horse?"

Claire and Ace have dinner together. She tells him she would have liked to have remained with him at the barn the previous night, and that he shouldn't be afraid of what can be. Unable to sleep, Ace echoes Claire's words as Gus drifts off in front of him.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 7 (Jerry get into the World Series of Poker)
Rosie gets Leon's blessing to see if his agent Joey Rathburn will help her find out where she stands with Walter Smith in regard to riding Getting' Up Morning. 

Escalante bristles as a technician installs the surveillance camera Ace has ordered for Pint of Plain's stall, complaining his barn will be "on the Facebook ."  Escalante and Jo encounter a   young boy, Eduardo, the nephew of one of the track workers and Jo pays his difficult uncle $10 to have him "help" her for the day. 

Joey agrees to speak to Walter on Rosie's behalf, provided  he can be her agent. Walter is preoccupied with Bowman's claim of a lien on his horse. Consulting a lawyer, he explains he received Getting'up Morning as payment for his time spent working for the Colonel, as opposed to Bowman's representation that the horse rightfully belongs to the Colonel's son-in-law.

Lonnie tells the other degenerates that he'd like to make a claim on another horse, thinking that the trainer is employing the same strategy Escalante used with Mon Gateau, dropping misleading cues about the horse's readiness and conditioning. The others are skeptical, but  when Lonnie  steps out on his own, and puts in the claim on the gray horse with his own money, the horse  comes out of the gate like a rocket but fails to finish the race.   As Escalante and Lonnie rush to the injured horse, Jo has the Bug give Eduardo his goggles and she rides back to the barn with the injured horse, leaving Escalante to take care of the boy.

At the barn, it's  clear that Lonnie's new horse won't be able to race again and will have to become a broodmare while Marcus reminds Lonnie it's his own fault for acting impetuously and not giving the trainer time to assesses her.

When Eduardo's uncle doesn't show up at the arranged meeting time, Escalante drives the boy back to his run-down neighborhood, and tells him to call if he ever needs anything. That night, Jo reveals her pregnancy to Escalante, and he's taken aback but reacts positively.

On his yacht, Mike grills Israel. Reading from a journal the supposed double agent provided, Mike gleans that Ace is meeting with the chief of a local Indian band regarding the state legislature's pending approval of casino gaming at race tracks. Israel fills in that the chief's brother was in prison with Ace. Mike is suspicious of the young man's composure.

Jerry plays in a poker tournament to try and win a ticket to the World Series of Poker. Chan is there, as is the card dealer Naomi. Jerry can't help but be disappointed in Naomi's poor playing until It dawns on Jerry that she wasn't there to play cards, and they go back to his car and have sex in the front seat. After their "driving lesson," Jerry takes Naomi back to the motel and shows the other degenerates his winning ticket to the tournament.

Claire gives Ace a tour of the horse farm he's donated to and gives him a lesson in horsemanship in the round pen; his excitement is palpable. Later, Ace meets the chief outside his casino, as one of Mike's men photographs them from afar-just as Ace and Gus had planned. Back on the yacht, Israel makes an impassioned plea to Mike, DiRossi and Cohen to accept Ace's offer at face value. He tells them that Ace isn't out for vengeance, but forgiveness and fulfillment. DiRossi and Cohen seem inclined to believe him, but when Israel echoes Ace's syntax-"He answers a question with a question," he says-Mike snaps and strikes Israel over the head with an ashtray, beating him senseless.

When Ronnie pays Walter a visit to ask for his mount back on Gettin'up Morning, the trainer agrees -- on the condition that Jenkins get himself fit and sober. Walter breaks the news to Rosie at The Long Shot, as Leon and Joey look on. That night, the weight of Walter's decision weighs heavy on all involved. Ronnie snorts crushed pills; Leon and Rosie, separate and alone, contemplate their future.

Ace and Gus worry over not hearing any news from Israel. Lying in bed, Ace watches Pint of Plain via the horse-cam on his laptop.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 8 (Jerry get into the World Series of Poker)
Ace awakes, worried about Nathan Israel's safety. He's right to do so, as at that moment Mike Smythe's crew is in the process of throwing Israel's body, piece by piece, into the water. Cohen, meanwhile, meets with the Chief in his casino and pays him off with a bribe. Gus, with the casino's cooperation, secures a DVD of the conversation. When Gus reads Ace an email sent from Israel's cellphone, resigning, they know their man is dead.

Jo arrives at the stable with the young boy Eduardo. While she's doing an exam, the horse kicks out at her, hitting her in the stomach. Jo's assistant takes her to the hospital where they determine that the baby's heartbeat is regular, but keep her for observation. 

Walter Smith's lawyer Hartstone relays Bowman's settlement offer for the fees he claims Walter owes on Gettin'up Morning. When he learns Bowman has secured an affidavit from someone named Sloane, Walter blows up. Hartstone convinces Walter to settle down and let him represent his case at the Steward's hearing where Bowman is challenging the horse's entrance in the Western Derby. The Stewards agree that Bowman is trying to bully Walter into a "nuisance payoff," and the horse is cleared for the million dollar race.

Rosie gives Ronnie pointers on riding Gettin'up Morning, but the veteran jockey brushes her off, before taking the colt for a workout. Escalante finds out that the maximum weight is 112 pounds for the jockey riding Mon Gateau in the Overnight stake race on Derby Day. Realizing there's no way Leon can make that, he tells Rathburn he's putting Rosie on the mount instead, which, Joey deduces, could also help with the odds. Rathburn delivers the news first to a disappointed Leon, then to an elated Rosie, whose joy at having a mount on Derby Day is slightly tempered when she realizes her good fortune is at Leon's expense.

When DiRossi visits Ace to smooth things over on Mike's behalf, Ace and Gus take him to the track and Gus asks Escalante to give them some privacy.   Gus accompanies DiRossi inside an empty tack room and confiscates his cell phone. Meanwhile, Ace drives to Mike's yacht and confronts Smythe about killing Israel. Mike feigns ignorance and says he chooses to believe Israel's email. Ace slams down the DVD of Cohen meeting with the Chief, in which Cohen verbalizes Mike's plan to bribe the state legislature. Mike realizes that's the basis for a RICO case, and Ace tells him to stay away from him and the track. 

Walter and Escalante are disappointed when Gettin'up Morning and Pint of Plain draw the first two positions for the Western Derby. That afternoon, Ronnie puts up a brilliant ride to win on a horse named Emmett's Daddy proving he is back in top form.

As the Old Man takes Getting' Up Morning back to the barn from a schooling session in the saddling area, Bowman approaches Smith, and tells him the better his horse does, the bigger role his affidavit is going to play despite Smith's allegation of foul play at the farm.   When Bowman threatens to bring the story before the court of public opinion Geraldo Rivera, ESPN and the like the Old Man assaults him, knocking him to the ground.

In the locked stable room, DiRossi squirms nervously...Ace returns, sending DiRossi back to Mike, knowing he will be suspect. Smythe declare his plans to make the move on the casino gambling at the track himself-with Ace out of the picture. At The Long Shot, Leon asks Ronnie to tell him about the "most specialist stuff" for losing weight. Ronnie won't tell him, unwilling to ruin his own luck by setting someone else on the dark path he took.

Escalante visits the hospital and learns Jo is scheduled for a procedure the next day to try to save her pregnancy. Jo asks Escalante to take care of Eduardo for the night-the night before Derby Day. The Degenerates, excited to have their horse running on Derby Day, discuss Escalante's decision to use Rosie as their jockey and what they plan to wear to the paddock. Gus warns Ace that the man Mike had watching them at the casino is a hit man from Chicago, and that caution is necessary since Ace is now a target.

Horse Racing Glossary
 
Series 1 Episode 9 (Final Episode) (Derby Day)
Well, that's it, folks. After a season full of complicated horse-racing terminology, mumbling characters, and a story that was nonexistent at first, HBO's Luck has come to the finish line of it's truncated run. Did the finale close out what eventually shaped up to be an extremely strong season?

The best thing this episode could have done was to have it take place around Derby Day. With the exception of Ace's (Dustin Hoffman) story, the Derby races gave us some context for the rest of the characters. Nothing was more perfect than when Rosie (Kerry Condon) was racing Mon Gateau. It was the first time in the series that every character was focused on one thing, and it gave the viewers plenty of reasons to care about the outcome of the race. What if Rosie loses? Would Leon (Tom Payne) have another chance to ride? What would happen to Joey (Richard Kind)? Fortunately for fans of Rosie, she won the race in spectacular fashion. This show has had great horse races in previous episodes, but this one was special. 

The writers would like us to believe that the main event Derby race was the one we were all waiting for, but that just isn't true. While the first race involved most of the characters we got to know over the last eight episodes, the second one only held stakes for Escalante (John Ortiz), Walter (Nick Nolte), and Ronnie (Gary Stevens). It was tough to decide who to root for here, but I think Escalante rightly deserved to be the fan favorite here. The race was tense, and there was a moment when I thought that Ronnie may have weaseled out a win in the photo finish, but I was very excited to see Escalante take the win. We got to know him very well over the last couple episodes, and he quickly became one of my favorite characters. I was also a huge fan of Walter, but he was never destined to win the big one; that would be far too happy

Before I delve into Ace's story, I do need to talk about some of the bad in this episode. I never cared about Jo's (Jill Hennessy) pregnancy, and nothing could have made me feel much of anything even when we learned she lost the baby. It was a storyline that came out of nowhere, and one that had no effect on the season, so in the end it comes off as wasted screen time. The writers also seemed to have forgotten about the gamblers, as they seemed to have been included in the episode more due to the fact that they just happened to be characters on the show than for any real plot reasons. Even Marcus' (Kevin Dunn) illness never developed into anything. We did get a very good scene between the friends and Rosie at the end, as they drank beer and celebrated their win, but their story never developed into more than that.

And then there is Ace's story. The one that started the series, and the one that is meant to close out the series. Unfortunately for us, no one planned on ending the show after nine episodes. Those looking for closure, or even a hint of success in Ace's plot, were sorely disappointed in this episode. Far too late, we are introduced to Ace's grandson, Brent (Jake Hoffman). Apparently, the two men have some history, which was only alluded to in conversation before. Now that we've met the kid, I found him to be annoying and childish, refusing to listen to Ace for whatever reason. Not like having his enemies see his grandson led to anything, but I was expecting that nothing good could come of that. 

On the flip side of Ace's story was Gus (Dennis Farina), who I haven't talked about much here. Up until this episode, I found him to be a nonfactor, and a bit of a simpleton. This week, Gus impressed me with how intelligent he actually is. He understood a lot more about what was going on than I think even Ace did at first, and he acted very quickly and effectively when he knew his friend's life was being threatened. Ace and Gus's friendship was developed like never before in this episode, and this was the only part of Ace's story that left me wishing for a second season.

Was this a good episode of Luck? Yes. Was it a good finale, season or series? No. There were some great moments for a lot of the characters that we came to know and love over the last nine weeks, but Ace's story is the one that matters for hooking viewers into a theoretical second season, and the lackluster ending to that arc was a definite low point to the episode. Nevertheless, David Milch worked extremely hard this season to create a world which we could feel comfortable in. What started off as a completely foreign concept to most viewers became familiar and welcoming as the weeks went on. It's too bad that the show has been cancelled, as this episode proved that no satisfying conclusion could be reached in just nine episodes.

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