They say when you’re hot, you’re hot, and last week in Mexico at CSI5* MLSJ Monterrey, Richard Vogel & Cepano Baloubet were en fuego.
The 26-year-old German rider and “Cepano” started out their week with a win in the 1.55m Ranking B Afflux class on Friday, and ended it with a victory in the coveted 1.60m GNP Grand Prix.
When asked if his latest win was “easy,” given his continued string of North American successes, a smiling Vogel noted that ‘easy’ wasn’t quite the right word.
“No, it’s never easy, but I can’t thank my horse [enough] or my team. With them at my back, and my horse underneath me, it’s maybe a little bit easier, yeah.”
That much buzzed-about horse—the 9-year-old DSP gelding, Cepano—was in good company on the first round startlist of 25, with just five pairs returning to jump the shortened course. Fourth to go in the jump-off order, Vogel said he paid close attention to the riders ahead of him.
“I didn’t see the first [horse] all the way, but the second and third riders in the jump-off I saw [their] whole rounds, so I kind of knew what I had to do,” he said.
“I knew that after the double, the three before me did six strides to the next oxer, and I wasn’t sure I would get there in the six, so I planned on doing seven [strides]. I knew [because of that choice I had to] make up time somewhere else.
“Obviously, in the jump-off, you have to be clear and fast, [and] luckily, we managed to be.”
Vogel and Cepano stopped the clock at 34.33 seconds ahead of two Olympians: Canada’s Erynn Ballard on impressive new ride Libido Van’t Hofken (36.79); and Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and longtime partner, Ace of Hearts (37.63).
“I’m proud to be part of the podium today, it was a good class,” reflected Vogel, who praised course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio’s track and the grounds crew at MLSJ Monterrey, who kept the grass field jumpable despite three nights of heavy rain.
“[I’m enjoying it] a lot over here [in Mexico],” Vogel added. “All the people are so welcoming. I brought four horses from Europe, three 9-year-olds and one 8-year-old, and then I got one more horse here from a Mexican friend.
“Obviously, Cepano was already more experienced than all the others, but the other [horses] are just about to step up, and for them, it was a great tour to [jump] in bigger classes and get experience on those grass fields. So, sport-wise, it has been a super tour for us.”
Officially paired together for just under a year, Vogel first rode Cepano as a 6-year-old, before he was purchased by owners Veronica and Molly Tracy and brought onto the German rider’s string full-time. Not long after, the underdog pair were thrust into the international spotlight when they won the final Saturday Night Lights class of the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington: the $500 Rolex Grand Prix—and have set tongues wagging ever since.
With his boundless scope, foot-speed, and versatility, in fact, Cepano Baloubet calls to mind another bright-eyed chestnut gelding who made an early mark at WEF in his 9-year-old season: Ben Maher’s (GBR) Tokyo Olympic Individual gold medal-winning partner, Explosion W.
Together, Vogel & Cepano have climbed 20 podiums this season, 13 of them as winners. At 1.55m, they’re clear at 50% and in the top-10 80% of the time. And in their 10 rounds together at 1.60m, they’re averaging both clear and in the top-10 results at a 60% clip, according to Jumpr App.
“Horse power-wise, I have some really nice horses and upcoming horses, and then the team behind me—our staff, our vet, our farrier—all of them have been a great support. They do a super job, and I think the results [are] paying [off] in the ring,” said the modest Vogel, who pulled up just short of agreeing that he was, in fact, riding better than he’s ever ridden.
“Obviously, there are phases, but right now, I would say, yeah, I’m in a good phase,” he acknowledged. “We’ll try to keep it up and not lose the foundation. We’ll keep on the ground, stay humble, and [do the] work.”