The setting of the present work may be one of the country race meetings, such as St Buryan, which Munnings frequented while living at the artists' colony at Lamorna in Cornwall between 1911 and 1914, and where he developed a life-long passion for racing and hunting.
The painting depicts a calm moment prior to the beginning of a race, the horse stands patiently, seemingly unconcerned, while the jockey makes last minute adjustments to the girth. The focus is very much on the preparation of the race rather than the race itself.
The composition is an informal one; the horse is foreshortened, facing away from the viewer, and the line of spectators and other horses in the background runs across the picture plane at a diagonal. The upper half of the picture is the foliage of chestnut trees, the lower half, grass. With this composition the informality is enhanced, it is a transient moment. Munnings used this format on other occasions, Chestnuts saddling up (private collection) features an almost identical view of horse and jockey, set slightly off centre.
The present work also offers a vignette of the society of the day; in the far left of the picture is an elegant lady with a parasol. Using the touches of pink/red in the parasol on the left and the jockey on the right, the viewer's eye travels into the remainder of the canvas, the scene unfurls, and we too become bystanders waiting for the start.