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America’s new Esquire TV Network may have found a winning betting formula where HBO TV made a bad bet.

HBO’s huge failure “Luck” may have paved the way for Esquire TV’s “Horseplayers” but perhaps with more chance at success. The pilot opens at Aqueduct in Queens, where “Team Rotondo” – a father-son combination and a family friend – is trying to hit a Pick 6 (six winners in a row), and an old-school bettor named John Conte is fixated on a horse named Al Dente.

HBO’s scripted series about the horse racing world, with big-name stars like Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, made its debut in January 2012 amid much publicity, but was shut down a few months later, after three horses died during production. The viewer ratings were dead too.

The thrill of the sport well-portrayed

Other professional horseplayers will be introduced in later episodes, building to the National Handicapping Championship, a tournament for bettors who can bet in
mobile casinos or at the track. These people are risking hundreds or thousands of dollars at a time, and the show is crisply edited to bring out the excitement inherent in a horse race on which a lot is riding.

There is no hint, in the first episode, of horse racing’s negative aspects: such as drugging and the largely empty grandstands at the racetracks testify to the sport’s troubles attracting spectators as more people watch it from home and use mobile sportsbooks offered by betting shops.