Released from prison after three years, "Ace" Bernstein plots revenge against the colleagues who betrayed him. With his trusted aide/chauffeur Gus Demitriou acting as a front for his race horse investment, Ace seeks to reverse the sagging fortunes of a famous racetrack. Meanwhile, four dissolute gamblers at the race track--Jerry, Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie--pool their meager resources to make a Pick Six bet that could be worth millions.
Released from prison after three years, "Ace" Bernstein plots revenge against the colleagues who betrayed him. With his trusted aide/chauffeur Gus Demitriou acting as a front for his race horse investment, Ace seeks to reverse the sagging fortunes of a famous racetrack. Meanwhile, four dissolute gamblers at the race track - Jerry, Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie - pool their meager resources to make a Pick Six bet that could be worth millions.
Chafing under his parole conditions but eager to move forward in the racetrack deal, Ace (Dustin Hoffman) shows off his famous temper during a contentious meeting with one-time colleague Nick DiRossi (Alan Rosenberg) and a possible investor, Isadore Cohen (Ted Levine). Although Marcus (Kevin Dunn) is wary about flaunting his newfound Pick Six wealth, his three partners have no such qualms, as Jerry (Jason Gedrick) sits in at higher-stakes poker games, Renzo (Ritchie Coster) sets his sights on claiming one of Escalante’s (John Ortiz) mystery horses and Lonnie (Ian Hart) parties with two unscrupulous women. Uncertain that fledgling jockey Rosie Shanahan (Kerry Condon) is seasoned enough to ride his once-in-a-lifetime horse, Walter Smith (Nick Nolte) enlists Ronnie Jenkins (Gary Stevens), ignoring the veteran jockey’s recent history of substance abuse.
Ace enlists Nathan Israel (Patrick J. Adams), a cocky, young whiz kid, in his plans. Walter decides to enter his colt, Gettin’up Morning, in his first race, but loses Ronnie as his rider when the jockey takes a tumble. Burned by Mulligan (W. Earl Brown) at the claiming race, Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie send Jerry to buy the horse back – and then return him to Escalante (John Ortiz) to train.
As Chan (Dennis Dun) challenges Jerry to his limits in a private poker game, Jerry’s pals look to pry him away from his gambling nemesis. Ace takes a meeting with Claire LeChea (Joan Allen), an activist who hopes to rehabilitate prisoners through their work with broken-down racehorses. He then visits his one-time partner Michael Smythe (Michael Gambon) to discuss his participation in Ace’s racetrack venture. With Ronnie out of commission and surrendering to old vices, Walter settles on Rosie as his jockey, but her euphoria is tempered by Leon’s (Tom Payne) not making weight.
After learning that Pint of Plain, Gus’ (Dennis Farina) Irish horse, has been tentatively scheduled to race the next day, Ace forces Escalante to swap out Leon for a more experienced jockey, to Joey’s (Richard Kind) chagrin. Marcus fears for his health and wonders why he’s so attached to Jerry, while Kagle (Peter Appel), who’s been fired from the racetrack, returns from a bender looking for a handout. Ace gives Claire a lucky check, and the two head to the track with Gus to watch Pint of Plain’s memorable debut.
As Ace (Dustin Hoffman) pitches his deal to buy a piece of the racetrack, Israel (Patrick J. Adams) visits Smythe (Michael Gambon), DiRossi (Alan Rosenberg) and Cohen (Ted Levine) onboard Smythe’s yacht, where he’s offered a “second salary” as an informant. An earthquake spooks many of the horses at Santa Anita, but Escalante (John Ortiz) decides to go ahead and race Mon Gateau. He and the Degenerates end up sweating the outcome when Leon (Tom Payne) bumps another horse in the stretch, triggering an official review. Rosie (Kerry Condon) endures her own missteps in her race with Gettin’Up Morning, vexing Walter (Nick Nolte) and inviting fresh scrutiny of the old trainer and his prized horse. Joey (Richard Kind) reaps an unlikely dividend from a near-death experience, while Jo (Jill Hennessy) ponders an uncertain future with Escalante.
While Ace tours a prison outreach horse retirement farm with Claire (Joan Allen), Israel tries to convince Smythe that his boss is on the level. Jerry and his erstwhile card dealer, Naomi (Weronika Rosati), try to win their way into a poker tournament. Lonnie (Ian Hart) decides to “go it alone” by putting in a claim for another horse, a filly named Niagara’s Fall. Walter meets with Hartstone (Bruce Davison), a lawyer, to defend his ownership of Gettin’Up Morning, and has to make a decision about which jockey will ride him next. Rosie asks Joey to be her advocate; Ronnie (Gary Stevens) attends AA in an attempt to get his life, and career, back on track.
Ace ices out Smythe, DiRossi and Cohen as partners in the racetrack deal, but Smythe has other ideas. Weathering the ownership claim, Walter enters Gettin’Up Morning in the $1 million Western Derby – head-to-head against Ace and Gus’ (Dennis Farina) Pint of Plain. Unable to make weight, Leon loses his mount; Joey comes through for Rosie; a stable accident jeopardizes Jo’s pregnancy.
Gus takes extraordinary precautions to protect his boss. As Jerry (Jason Gedrick) maps out a strategy for another big score, Escalante preps his race-day horses while keeping an anxious ear out for news about Jo, who’s still in the hospital. Renzo welcomes his mother to town. Mon Gateau runs his biggest race yet. Later, Ace and Gus join an expectant crowd for the epic showdown between the two stars of Santa Anita, Ace and Gus’ Pint of Plain and Walter’s Gettin’Up Morning.