Gerald Murnane’s review of ‘Black Caviar: The horse of a lifetime’ (‘Champs and dream chasers’, SMH November 3-4) evokes the sense of bonding and excitement for those lured by the ‘romance of the turf’. But as the Melbourne Cup approaches, where are the reviews of books that consider the racing experience of the horses forced to carry the weight of a nation’s dreams of greatness? Time perhaps, to reflect on whether the lives we give them can meet even their basic welfare needs. Thoroughbred race horses spend most of their days isolated in individual stalls, despite their strong herd instincts and need to engage in natural behaviours such as grazing. Consequently one in ten develops abnormal behaviours. The majority have stomach ulcers from high concentrate diets, and bleeding into the respiratory tract after high intensity exercise. All are at risk of pain and severe injury, worsened by the industry practice of racing two-year-olds with immature skeletal systems. Recent research has exposed the failure of so-called padded whips to protect horses from pain. Finally, most race horses are sent to the knackery when no longer needed, destined to become dog meat. Suddenly it seems the genre has shifted to something far from romance.