Coral Cove, one of the best-known event horses of the past 30 years, has been put down aged 29.
The chestnut son of Mill Jess, who won Bramham CCI3* in 1998 and finished fourth at Burghley CCI4* in 2000, was ridden by Polly Phillipps until her untimely death in a fall at Thirlestane Castle Horse Trials in August 1999.
Her husband, the Leicestershire horse-dealer Vere, took over the ride on Coral Cove in 2000. Although he had extensive showjumping experience, Vere had never evented before. His aim was to compete Coral Cove at Burghley, their local event, that year in Polly’s memory. Polly had finished ninth at Burghley with the horse in 1997.
Astonishingly, he achieved his Burghley goal finishing fourth with a double clear round, having finished ninth at Bramham CCI3*, fourth at Gatcombe CIC3* and won the advanced class at Auchinleck en route.
In 2001 Vere and Coral Cove (pictured below) were 12th at Burghley, and in 2002 they completed Badminton with a clear cross-country round.
Coral Cove was retired from eventing in 2003 having won the Polly Phillipps Memorial Trophy at Eglinton Horse Trials for the second time. He had amassed 1,293 British Eventing points, had competed 12 long-format three- or four-star three-day events, and was a Grade A showjumper.
“He continued to showjump and hunt until he was 20 years old, and then spent a long and happy retirement as nanny to the foals. He was a horse of a lifetime and adored by all of his connections,” said Vere’s second wife, Clea Phillipps.
Coral Cove will also be remembered for being at the centre of a prohibited substance controversy at the 1998 World Equestrian Games at Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, where he was the highest placed horse of the British team in seventh.
A urine sample was found to contain above the permitted levels of the pain-killing drug salicylic acid, leading to Britain losing its Olympic qualification and the bronze medal.
However Polly was later exonerated by the Judicial Committee of the FEI in a statement that read: “There was no deliberate attempt by Polly Phillipps to affect the performance of Coral Cove.”