LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY—Phelps, the 11-year-old Kentucky-bred Thoroughbred racehorse “sold” to U.S. Olympic gold medalist David O’Connor for $1 eight years ago has been making headlines of late—and for good reason.

The son of Breeder’s Cup winner Tiznow proved untouchable during his first two CCI5*-L cross-country runs with rider Mia Farley. He earned fifth place overall in Maryland last October and repeated the feat of being clear and in the time on cross country during the Kentucky Three-Day last week—one of only two horses in the field to do so.

And yet, via animal communicator, the self-described “very private” gelding said he’s not only been taken aback by the recent media barrage, he’s mortified by it.

“It’s all been quite unseemly,” Phelps told Horse Network through his medium. “What are the two things we’re told never to speak about in polite company? Money and politics. And yet, every headline with my name in it comes complete with my purchase price. Next thing you know, they’ll also be listing who I’ll be supporting in the upcoming presidential election!

“It’s not like I learned to gallop yesterday,” Phelps continued. “I was born and raised on Kentucky bluegrass, the son of a two-time Breeder’s Cup winner. I may not have taken to racing like a duck to water—or, you know, at all—but did anyone ever ask me about my preferred discipline? No.

“I could have told you a decade ago that I was a lean, mean, cross-country machine with the bravery and stamina to tackle five-star courses the world over. But instead, the headlines always say the same thing: ‘$1 Racing Washout Makes Good in Eventing.’

“It’s just so gauche,” Phelps sighed. “How about I give you a couple of headlines to chew on? ‘Born & Bred Three-Day Horse Triumphs on Home Soil in Kentucky,’ for one? Or, ‘Son of the Famous Tiznow Dominates Field of European Warmbloods!’

“Editors take note: that’s a headline.”

The gelding also calls his much-touted origin story “fake news,” noting that he was supposed to be a sales horse, but proved so good in training that O’Connor determined he couldn’t quite part with him, especially after he’d found his 24-year-old human companion, Farley.

What’s more: Phelps—who showed such little aptitude for racing that he didn’t record so much as a single official workout—is hardly the first Jockey Club-registered American Thoroughbred to make a name at the top of the eventing world. Leah Lang-Gluscic’s Kentucky Three-Day partner AP Prime, and Andrea Baxter’s Indy 500, are just two of many examples.  

And while the headlines may still be honing in on dollar signs, the OTTB says he’s always known where he was heading. “You know what my Jockey Club name is? Tiz Special,” Phelps says.

“It’s been in there the whole time.”