The Thoroughbred sporthorse legend Coconut Grove has died.
The exceptional, successful sire and veteran of major show jumping events was humanely euthanized on August 14, 2012, following a colic surgery at the Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery hospital in Weatherford, Texas.
Shown to incomparable successes by his owner, the Colombian show jumping rider German Camargo, Coconut Grove was one of showjumping’s most prominent Thoroughbred stars. The South American-bred stallion’s show ring accomplishments began in 1993 and continued with great success at the Grand Prix level from 1996 through the remainder of his career. In 1997, he was the Champion of the Bolivarianos Games in Peru. Coconut Grove was Champion in the Toyota Cup World Cup Qualifier, Reserve Champion in the Centro American and Caribbean Games, and Reserve Champion in the World Cup qualifier in Caracas, Venezuela, all in 1998. In 1999, he was ranked Best South American Horse and Team Fifth at the Pan American Games in Canada and participated in the Canadian World Cup qualifiers, securing a spot in the World Cup event in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was National Champion Jumper for Colombia from 1997 through 1999. The Camargos brought Coconut Grove to the United States for competition in 2000, when he won third in the $100,000 U.S. Open Jumper Championships in Miami and fifth in the $25,000 WEF Grand Prix of Tampa. These placings and others earned the stallion a ticket to the Sydney Olympics representing Colombia, but a lack of funding kept the stallion at home. Capping that outstanding year, Coconut Grove qualified for the AGA Championships, the American Invitational, and was ranked third in the AGA Rookie of the Year standings based on only six starts. In 2001, he placed fifth in the $25,000 Wellington Grand Prix and was retired shortly after.
A Dutch breeder had intended to purchase Coconut Grove and then export him to Europe for breeding. However, Camargo and his wife, Paula, decided to strike a deal to keep him in the United States, and he was sold to Tamara Smith in 2001. As a prominent sire at Smith’s Tamarack Select, which promoted the stallion to the burgeoning American Sporthorse breeding industry, Smith made him a “must-have” for many perceptive breeders. His first breeding registry approval was given by the Rhineland Pfalz-Saar International (RPSI) in 2002. In 2003, Selle Francais approved Coconut Grove. That same year, the American Holsteiner Horse Association became the first NAFSH registry to approve Coconut Grove for use as a sire, making him the first Thoroughbred stallion ever to receive breeding approval in any major North American warmblood studbook. The stallion repeated history in 2004 by being the first Thoroughbred stallion to receive a breeding license from the American Hanoverian Society. Many other American studbooks followed suit and, setting world-wide precedents, the Canadian Warmblood Horsebreeders Association and multiple European-based registries granted him approval, including the the German Oldenburg Verband, the Belgian studbook, Zangersheide, KWPN of Holland, the Trakhener Verband, and the Irish Horse Board. Coconut Grove achieved the amazing feat of 100% approval status with 9 U.S. registries, 1 Canadian, and 7 European registries. In addition to the approvals, he was selected for the prestigious Hanoverian Jumper Breeding Program in 2005. No other Thoroughbred stallion in history has gained such recognition and status as a sire.
From the onset of his breeding career, Coconut Grove’s accomplishments as a sire have been equally impressive. In 2004 and 2006 Coconut Grove sired the high scoring foals of the Selle Francais Tour, Quinze de Upatoi, bred by Page Flournoy, and Santorini, who also earned Reserve Champion Yearling Hunter at Devon in 2007 and is now in jumper development with Olympian Anne Kursinski. Coconut Grove sired Coconut Royale, bred by Equusmanor Sporthorses, who was 4th in the Nation in Hanoverian Sport Horse Breeding, 6th in the Nation USDF Sport Horse Breeding, and Top 5 Dressage Futurity Prospect at the USDF Northwest Series Final in 2006, in addition to 100% premium foals in 2006. In 2007, 5 site champions with 4 different registries were sired by the stallion. Additionally that year, two sons were presented and approved, Triple S Holsteiner’s Coconut Cardo, now active in the jumper ring in California, and October Hill Farm’s Carino, a two year old that was granted full breeding rights, an unprecedented occurrence in the approvals world. Coquette, a Coconut Grove daughter bred by Bent Hickory Farm, was Top 5 Mare in the Nation of the AHS Tour in 2009, and in addition she was accepted for the Hanoverian Jumper Breeding Program. This year, a grandson of Coconut Grove, Montaro OHF, earned RPSI approval with perfect “10”’s in free jumping.
There are many other Coconut Grove competition horses who have proven themselves over fences and on the line at the nation’s biggest shows, including: Branscomb Farm’s Corazon BF, a participant in both YJC and high performance hunter classes in southern California; 2012 Madden Search Top 10 Finalist Handyman B, bred by Bannockburn Farm, and Top 5 Finalist Coral Key, bred by November Hill Farm; Cellar Door, a developing event horse produced by top USEF-ranked breeder Jane Dudinsky; Picchu, a successful event horse and show jumper bred by owner and rider Page Flournoy; Top Flight, bred by Bryan Dietz, a winner in the YJC divisions; and many, many other upcoming youngsters. Demand for services in Europe necessitated the export of frozen semen that has since been employed in the UK, Holland and parts of Germany, producing quality offspring for both sport and breeding in those areas.
At the time of his passing, Coconut Grove was in the ownership of Wendy Davis Gerrish of October Hill Farm in Hudson Oaks, Texas, where he had been standing at stud since 2009. When Smith decided that she needed to pare down her breeding business, she wanted to make sure that Coconut Grove was kept under professional management and selected Gerrish and October Hill for the job. She said at the time of his move, “It is terribly difficult to let go of such a treasure, especially at the height of his success, but it has always been my plan to prove his greatness and then allow him to go on to someone I believe can maintain his celebrity. This decision, though painful, will allow me to pursue other business ventures. I could not be more comfortable with Coconut Grove being under the capable hands of Wendy Davis Gerrish and the October Hill staff. Wendy and I will continue to work in concert to maintain the star quality of this exceptional stallion.”
The outpouring of concern and condolences following Coconut Grove’s death has been amazing, reports Gerrish. “I have received dozens of emails and phone calls from breeders, registry officials and fans,” she said, “and the internet, of course, carried the news quickly around the globe.”
Condolences from RPSI registry officials read, “You know well in what esteem [judge] Otto [Schalter] and our registry held this stallion and how he will be missed. We are honored to have seen him, looking fit and well for his age, when we were at your farm for the inspection [in July].” From breeder Shawna Doering, “I am so sorry for your loss of your wonderful stallion. We absolutely adore our three and a half year-old colt by him. ‘Cosmo’ is the sweetest, smartest and best behaved foal I’ve ever been around, and I’m grateful every day that I bred my mare to Coconut Grove last year.” Diane Halpin of Laurel Leaf Hanoverians posted on the Chronicle Chat Boards, “This is such sad news! He was a favorite of mine and I know Tamara Smith loved him dearly. I just watched a daughter of his jump at HITS Culpeper and always wished I owned a broodmare who’d have been a good match with him. He’ll be missed, especially as refining quality on some of our warmblood mares and as a popular stallion in our AHS Jumper Breeding Program. Rest in Peace, Coco.”
Gerrish takes some comfort in the fact that there is a considerable bank of frozen semen from Coconut Grove that will be available to breeders in the seasons ahead. “The fact that we have the ability to continue to produce offspring by Coconut Grove is a good consolation,” she said, “but, of course, we would all rather have him back here in his stall. He will be dearly missed.”