'Luck' Actor Organizes Farewell Gathering at Santa Anita

5:55 PM PST 03/16/2012 by Lesley Goldberg
HBO
"Luck's" John Ortiz

John Ortiz, who plays trainer Turo Escalante on the beleaguered HBO drama, was joined by an estimated 60-80 cast members at the Arcadia race track early Friday to say farewell.

Two days after HBO pulled the plug on Luck, scores of cast, crew members and extras from the horse-racing drama gathered at Santa Anita for an informal farewell Friday morning.

Luck actor John Ortiz -- who plays trainer Turo Escalante and is a regular at the track -- reportedly organized the informal effort, reaching out to cast members via text message with a note saying he'd be at Clockers' Corner, a breakfast spot where race track aficionados, trainers, owners, etc., dine while watching morning workouts.

"It felt like a surprise party … there had to be 60-80 cast members, crew members and extras who have been working at Santa Anita over the last year," the race track's director of special projects Pete Siberell told The Hollywood Reporter.

Cast members including Kevin Dunn, Ian Hart, Ritchie Coster, Kerry Condon, Jill Hennessy, Tom Payne and Gary Stevens were among those in attendance, Siberell noted, with director Mimi Leder -- who was set to helm the Season 2 premiere -- also joining the fray. Series headliners Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina and Joan Allen did not attend.

STORY: Why You Should Still Watch 'Luck' and the Characters We'll Miss the Most

"People were obviously stunned at the news and very sad about leaving the show -- and Santa Anita," Siberell said. "With Luck, they really felt attached to the race track and the horse racing community."

HBO ended production on the drama from David Milch and Michael Mann on Wednesday following the death of a third horse during filming of the series, citing an inability to guarantee the safety of the horses used on the series.

PHOTOS: HBO's Premiere of 'Luck'

Production on Episode 2 of Luck's sophomore season was under way Tuesday at the race track in Arcadia, Calif., when the third horse was injured and subsequently euthanized after undergoing an exam by an attending vet. (Two horses were injured and euthanized during production of Season 1.)

Despite opening to underwhelming ratings for the pricey, heavily-hyped and critically acclaimed series, HBO renewed the Milch passion project for a second season.

STORY: Why 'Luck' Ran Out on HBO's Horse Racing Drama

Luck, which still has a few remaining original episodes to air, employed many from the Santa Anita racing community as part of its production. For its part, the cast of the series had a great deal of respect and admiration for those in the racing community, which was expressed during Ortiz's get-together.

"I think John's effort allowed them to say a last goodbye to Santa Anita," Siberell said, noting the Luck team did "everything it could to keep horses, riders, patrons and employees safe."

STORY: HBO's 'Luck' Suspends Using Horses After Third Death

Meanwhile, Milch, Mann and series star Dustin Hoffman are organizing a more formal "Luck Wake" for cast and crew at an undisclosed location in Hollywood on Friday night, according to TMZ.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit

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