In 1864, Manet produced a watercolour (Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum) and a painting (now disappeared) of six horses and their jockeys at the finish of a race at the Longchamps racecourse. For the first time, he represented horses galloping directly towards the viewer. Manet subsequently used this composition on several occasions. The different versions illustrate a characteristic tendency of Manet's when returning to a motif he had already tackled: that of bringing the subject closer and reducing the depth of field.
Five jockeys galloping appears to be the last stage in this sequence of refining the image. The process of simplification and reduction culminates in this watercolour, where there is virtually no effect of depth. The number of horses is reduced from six to five, and they are the only elements in the composition. The spectators, the landscape and the decoration in the works from 1864 have completely disappeared.
Hatching is used to define the triangle of horses and jockeys who form one single shape. Thus isolated, the group has a monumentality not found in any other of Manet's racing scenes, with the exception of one small painting known only through a studio photograph.