“Yesterday, I was really, really happy with second [place], but first is still a big difference,” smiled Richard Vogel (GER) on Saturday after capturing his first CSIO5* win at CHIO Aachen with Cepano Baloubet.

It was their second podium finish in as many days at the iconic venue and the latest in a string of successes for the pair spanning the globe this year.

On Friday, Vogel and the chestnut gelding were second behind Jana Wargers (GER) in the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia at Aachen. Fifty-six combinations contested Frank Rothenberger’s 1.60m course. Wargers was in a class of her own on the day, crossing the timers in the jump off two full seconds ahead of Vogel (43.69 to 45.67).

Come Saturday however, their roles reversed in the Allianz-Prize 1.55m.

Vogel and Cepano Baloubet were three seconds fastest, stopping the clock in a blazing 38.87s thanks to a pirouette-like turn to the Rolex jump. Wargers and Chacco’s Lady 2 took runner up with a double clear in 42.16.

For Vogel and Cepano Baloubet, podium finishes are all but standard fare. At just nine years of age, the German-bred gelding already has a record that eclipses many top jumpers entire careers.

Vogel moved Cepano Baloubet up to the top level in 2023 and has earned eight podium finishes, including six victories, in the past six months, all at the 4 and 5* level. He’s currently ranked no. 9 on the top earning horses of 2023, according to Jumpr App. More telling still, he’s the only nine year old in the top 10 on that list.

Cepano’s spectacular season started at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida where he and Vogel captured a pair of 4* 1.50m wins and their first 5* 1.60m Grand Prix title with the winter circuit’s feature event, the Rolex Grand Prix in April.

They went on to claim a pair of 1.55m wins at Italy’s Piazza Di Siena CSIO5* and Germany’s Hohenkirchen CSI4* in May. In July, they added two more podium finishes at CHIO Aachen, the most competitive world stage there is.

Did we mention the gelding is nine?

And that Vogel is 26?

“I’m very proud of him. I mean, at this level, nine-year olds can’t be experienced,” said Vogel. “So he’s fairly green [at the 5*] level. And he even slipped a bit in the jump off [on Friday], but how brave he stays and how much he wants to fight to get it done is really something that not a lot of horses have.”

At this early stage in his international career, Cepano Baloubet has earned a 67% clear round average over three rounds at 1.60m and a 100% top ten finish average over five rounds at 1.55m (Jumpr App). They’ve accumulated over 300k Euro in prize earnings this year alone.

But the winning for this pair started long before their international career did.

“It’s a nice story,” said Vogel of how the gelding came into his life. It’s also one with American ties.

Bred by Seemann Wolfgang of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany, where Vogel grew up, Cepano Baloubet was developed by his friend, Tobias Schwarz (GER), before coming into the Vogel’s string at the end of his six-year-old year. It was a match from the start.

“As a seven year old, he was already German Young Horse champion,” shared Vogel.

In his eight-year-old year, the gelding was campaigned by both Vogel and Sophie Hinners (GER), jumping largely at the 1.40m and 1.45m height. Already the horse was attracting the kind of attention that makes it difficult for a jockey to hold onto the ride.

“The owners got two very good offers and they always tried to keep him. But then it got [to be] more and more money and they said, ‘Okay, at one point we can’t say no anymore.’ Luckily, the Tracey family [of the USA] secured him for me and since then it’s continuing to go better and better,” continued the world no. 34.

Cepano is now American owned. But Vogel also credits his time in the U.S. for their success.

“I spend half of the winter season in America and watch their skills and pick up a lot of tricks. Riding in Germany is more focused on the dressage and combining this helps too,” he said.

The other piece of the puzzle: Cepano’s rideability.

“My horse always searches for the fences, so that helps. Good rideability of the horses is very important and Cepano also wants to get there and be quick in the turn.”

An auspicious start, to be sure. And an enviable one. Cepano Balboulet is currently Vogel’s second horse behind United Touch. He’s the top performing nine-year old in the world right now. And the year is only half done.