(Reuters) - David Milch first visited a horse racing track when he was six years-old. Sixty years later he is bringing his passion for the behind-the-scenes world of jockeys, gamblers, horses and trainers to television with the HBO series "Luck".
Milch, 66, the creator of Emmy-winning TV western "Deadwood", says there is no better setting for storytelling than a horse track whether you are a racing fan or not.
"The racetrack is a place of incomparable beauty, and the animals and humans who inhabit it illustrate their best and worst possibilities," said Milch, who has owned a number of thoroughbreds himself.
"The racetrack's an awful lot like the circus. It's tremendous fun to see all these different kinds of creatures rubbing up against each other," he added.
"Luck", starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, comes to HBO on Sunday (January 29) after getting warm reviews when the cable channel ran a preview of the first episode, directed by Michael Mann, in December. The network hope to emulate the success it has had with other dramas including its "Boardwalk Empire."
Hoffman, in the first major TV role of his 40-year career, plays taciturn, mob-like Chester "Ace" Bernstein, who is just out of prison and bent on revenge with the help of a prized $2 million thoroughbred.
Nolte is a veteran trainer-turned-owner with a dark history, and the cast is rounded out by a quartet of grubby gamblers, trainers, young jockeys, veterinarians and dozens of horses.
Crowded with characters, and with multiple plots revealed at a leisurely pace, Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker called "Luck" a "beautiful hour of television to watch".
The Hollywood Reporter said "nothing on television has captured this life-style, which makes this series unique."
"Luck" was filmed largely on location at Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles, framed by mountains and Southern California's ubiquitous palm trees.
It's a place that Milch knows well.
"Because David has spent so much money over his lifetime at Santa Anita, the carpet was rolled out," Mann told TV reporters in January.
But Milch's obsession with racing began much earlier, when he was a child in upstate New York.
"My dad first took me to the track when I was five or six years-old and after that I would sneak out there on my own whenever I could. I would wear my dad's fedora hat and by the time I was eight I was reading the daily racing form," Milch said.
Finally writing a TV series about his world, he said, is "a privilege and it's an enormous responsibility."
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)