02/27/2012 11:42AM

Luck Episode 5 Recap: Have a Pint of Plain

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Ace Bernstein knows a wiseguy when he sees one, whether it's a mobster in a designer suit or a horse trainer in boots.

Ace's right-hand man Gus Demitriou reads in his Daily Racing Form that their Irish stakes winner Pint of Plain is entered to race the next day with Leon Micheaux the bug boy jockey aboard. Ace sees right through Escalante's play and makes a surprise visit to Escalante's barn, "to find out if you're a gambler or a trainer."

Escalante insists he only entered Pint of Plain as a favor to the Santa Anita racing secretary to fill out a race card, and that Pint is "90 percent sure" to scratch. Ace tells Escalante he knows the bug boy is on the mount just to fatten the odds and make the race look like a warmup for the classy Pint. Ace demands a jockey switch to a more experienced rider. "You could put a monkey on him and win," Escalante replies. They have a standoff, but there's little doubt who will come out on top -- Escalante bumps the bug boy.

Another surprise visit occurs at the track rats' motel, where Kagle, the heavyset racetrack security guard who refused to play Jerry's winning pick six, shows up to accuse Marcus of reporting his loan shark activities to the track. Kagle has been fired. It looks like his shirt has dried up vomit on it, and he admits to Jerry that he's "tapped out." Their  reversal of fortune is complete: Kagle asks Jerry for a $10,000 loan and even offers to pay the same steep rate on points that he used to charge Jerry. Jerry could go for the throat here but instead hands him a $1,000 wad -- no vig.

Perhaps this act of kindness begins a redemptive streak for Jerry, who changes his mind about heading back to the casino and instead returns to the motel to have a heart-to-heart with the wheezing Marcus. We learn that Jerry keeps a diary -- old-school pen and paper, not a blog -- and that he lost $286,000 in his straight-up poker match with Leo Chan.

Renzo and Lonnie take Marcus to the hospital, where he learns that it's not his condition that is putting him at death's door but stress -- mostly because of Jerry. The doctor asks if Marcus has somebody to talk to. "A horse," Marcus replies. "That's not bad," says the doctor.

Back at the track, Joey the stammering agent has lost Ronnie Jenkins to another agent and is on thin ice with the bug boy after losing the Pint of Plain mount. Joey keeps leaving voicemails for his ex-wife that are not returned.

Ace gets stood up by Claire LeChea on his offer for her to come pick up her check for the charity she runs. Perhaps she is having second thoughts about taking money from a convicted felon. But she shows up the next day and when she realizes the check is for a lot more money than she requested, she decides to take Ace up on his offer of a day at the track.

Of course, Pint of Plain is not scratched from the race. In the paddock Ace asks Escalante if he can see the race. "Sure, use my box," Escalante says. "I'm asking you to watch it with us," Ace replies. The look on the trainer's face says it all -- he was about to head to the betting window to cash in on Pint of Plain's sure victory. But Ace isn't letting Escalante out of his sight. The trainer knows what kind of owner he's dealing with now: If he's going to train this horse, he'll have to do it straight up and not as part of his usual profiteering.

Pint of Plain wins the race but gets hit by a loose horseshoe and is bleeding from his rear right leg. The thrill of victory doesn't last long for Ace, who is too worried about Pint to head home. He sleeps in the barn overnight, with only a horse to talk to.

-- Jacob Luft

More Luck Episode 5 coverage:
WSJ: 'Luck,' Season 1, Episode 5: TV Recap
LA Times: Decoding 'Luck': Bromance at the track
EW: 'Luck' recap: Have a Heart
I Screen You Screen: People, let me tell you about my best friend