The exclamation point on a spectacular season for Richard Vogel was a victory in the $500,000 Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix during the final Saturday Night Lights of the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival at Wellington International. Vogel, of Germany, expertly guided the nine-year-old Deutsches Sportpferd gelding Cepano Baloubet to the horse’s debut victory at the CSI5* level.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Vogel exclaimed. “Two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do this horse in this big a Grand Prix. But he felt really good, and then we thought, ‘We’re here, and he’s in very good shape, so let’s give it a try.’ He was amazing.”
Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge set a challenging track for 40 contenders during the Rolex-sponsored finale week of WEF. Vogel set an early pace as the second to attack the course, and a total of seven jumped clean.
Vogel set the time to chase from the pole position in the tie-breaking jump-off. His time of 40.53 seconds was nine seconds faster than the runner-up, Roberto Teran Tafur of Colombia riding Dez’ Ooktoff, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion. Third place went to Irish Olympian Bertram Allen in the irons of Pacino Amiro, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding.
“My plan was not to risk too much in the jump-off, but also to put the pressure on the ones coming after me so they had to risk a bit more to be faster, and I was lucky it all worked out,” said Vogel, who has earned four international wins during the 2023 season at WEF. “This horse did a great job and deserves a break, so he’s got a couple of weeks off.”
Cepano Baloubet just found a new home in Vogel’s stable after Veronica and Molly Tracy purchased the gelding for him to compete. “I first rode this horse when he was six, and not too long after, the horse came to our stable with the same owner, and we were able to produce him. In January, they purchased the horse for me to keep it in the stable, so I’m lucky to have such good owners… Wellington has been very good to us; we’ve had a great season.”
Teran knew he wouldn’t have the footspeed to take a win but was thrilled with the second-place finish. “When I bought this horse, he was quite green at this level,” said Teran, who represented Colombia at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games. “He’s not a fast horse, but he’s consistent in clear rounds. I’m ecstatic with him because we’ve been working with him for more than three years, and he’s now very consistent at this level.”
After another successful season in Wellington, Allen and Pacino ended on a high note despite an unlucky rail at the final fence that kept him from the top position.
“[Pacino Amiro] has been fantastic for me; he always likes it here in Wellington, and he’s had some great wins here,” Allen said. “He jumped fantastic tonight, probably the best of the circuit, and it’s a big disappointment to get that close to winning a Rolex Grand Prix because there’s not that many chances you get to be that close.”
Vogel was presented as winner by Kyle Younghans, sports marketing manager for Rolex Watch USA, and Anne Pradal-Carrega, communication and image sponsoring for Rolex SA. To close the evening, winning groom and Cepano Baloubet’s caretaker Felicia Wallen was honored with the $500 Grooms Award, presented by Double H Farm’s Quentin Judge and Cayce Harrison.