LOS ANGELES – The horseracing series “Luck” has been canceled by HBO after a third thoroughbred died during production of the drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte.

“Luck,” about the seedier side of racing, will air the final two episodes of its first season now in progress, HBO said. But the series won’t return for the second season that began production last month, it said.

“While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future,” the channel said. “Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.”

It was a high-profile project for the premium channel that stakes its reputation on such fare.

HBO said it was “immensely proud” of the series and those involved in it.

The American Humane Association, which oversees animal welfare on Hollywood productions, said that in light of the three deaths “this is arguably the best decision HBO could have made.”

The group said it will work with HBO to ensure that horses used on “Luck” are “retired properly.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which had been sharply critical of the production, welcomed the cancellation.

Last Tuesday, a horse was injured and euthanized at Santa Anita Park racetrack.

It was being led to a stable by a groom when it reared and fell back, suffering a head injury, according to HBO. During filming in 2010 and 2011, two horses were hurt during racing scenes and euthanized.

HBO defended its treatment of the animals, saying it’s worked with the humane association and racing industry experts to implement safety protocols that exceed film and TV industry standards.

Celebrities help favorite candidates

ATLANTA – No presidential candidate worth his chauffeured SUV has reached his personal zenith without this: celebrities to vouch for them.

Nobody commands the nexus of stardom and politics more than President Obama, who raised money on Friday in film producer Tyler Perry’s sprawling southwest Atlanta studio at a gala event featuring a performance by pop star Cee Lo Green.

Then Obama spoke to those in a more elite group, including Oprah Winfrey, at Perry’s 30,000-square-foot French provincial mansion along the Chattahoochee River.

His just-released campaign biopic is narrated by actor Tom Hanks.

Obama, though, has no monopoly on big names.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has campaigned with comedian Jeff Foxworthy, convinced rocker-rapper Kid Rock to perform at a rally and won supportive words from KISS lead singer Gene Simmons.

Newt Gingrich has action film star Chuck Norris in his corner.

Rick Santorum has been endorsed by Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” have made campaign appearances with him.

Comedian Gallagher out of coma and joking around

LEWISVILLE, Texas – The comedian Gallagher is telling jokes after being taken out of a medically induced coma that doctors put him in following his heart attack last week in Texas.

Doctors slowly woke up Gallagher on Sunday morning. His promotional manager, Christine Scherrer, says Gallagher immediately recognized his family and started talking to them.

The comedian, whose full name is Leo Anthony Gallagher, is known for smashing watermelons with a sledgehammer.

Scherrer isn’t sure how long Gallagher will remain hospitalized. She says he appreciates his fans’ thoughts and prayers.

— From news service reports