There were seventeen officers in all riding in this race. The
race course was a large three-mile ring of the form of an ellipse
in front of the pavilion. On this course nine obstacles had been
arranged: the stream, a big and solid barrier five feet high,
just before the pavilion, a dry ditch, a ditch full of water, a
precipitous slope, an Irish barricade (one of the most difficult
obstacles, consisting of a mound fenced with brushwood, beyond
which was a ditch out of sight for the horses, so that the horse
had to clear both obstacles or might be killed); then two more
ditches filled with water, and one dry one; and the end of the
race was just facing the pavilion. But the race began not in the
ring, but two hundred yards away from it, and in that part of the
course was the first obstacle, a dammed-up stream, seven feet in
breadth, which the racers could leap or wade through as they
Three times they were ranged ready to start, but each time some
horse thrust itself out of line, and they had to begin again.
The umpire who was starting them, Colonel Sestrin, was beginning
to lose his temper, when at last for the fourth time he shouted
"Away!" and the racers started.
Every eye, every opera glass, was turned on the brightly colored
group of riders at the moment they were in line to start.
"They're off! They're starting!" was heard on all sides after
the hush of expectation.
And little groups and solitary figures among the public began
running from place to place to get a better view. In the very
first minute the close group of horsemen drew out, and it could
be seen that they were approaching the stream in two's and
three's and one behind another. To the spectators it seemed as
though they had all started simultaneously, but to the racers
there were seconds of difference that had great value to them.
Frou-Frou, excited and over-nervous, had lost the first moment,
and several horses had started before her, but before reaching
the stream, Vronsky, who was holding in the mare with all his
force as she tugged at the bridle, easily overtook three, and
there were left in front of him Mahotin's chestnut Gladiator,
whose hind-quarters were moving lightly and rhythmically up and
down exactly in front of Vronsky, and in front of all, the dainty
mare Diana bearing Kuzovlev more dead than alive.