Hanson: Botanical a Kentucky Oaks prospect to be excited about

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

May 5th, 2023

The May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) has the makings of being a very competitive race, mostly because no three-year-old filly has emerged as a standout leading up to the 1 1/8-mile affair. On the minus side, this group hasn’t yet posted especially high speed ratings, so its quality compared to recent years might not be as strong.

Brad Cox, who won the Oaks previously with multiple champion Monomoy Girl (2018) and Shedaresthedevil (2020), has the likely lukewarm favorite in Wet Paint, who swept the series of preps at Oaklawn Park, albeit against suspect competition. However, it’s one of his other two fillies in the field who I think might be the one to beat.

Although she hasn’t yet run on dirt, Botanical sparkled all winter over the Tapeta surface at Turfway Park, racking up four straight wins at a mile and over, including the Cincinnati Trophy and Bourbonette Oaks.  

Botanical commenced her win streak after dropping her first two starts on the grass, at Kentucky Downs and Keeneland, last fall. In the early days of the Turfway winter meet, Botanical cleared the maiden ranks with a 10-length romp. From there it was odds-on wins against allowance foes and in the Cincinnati Trophy by margins of 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 lengths, respectively.

The Bourbonette Oaks was not an open-lengths score, but a more-than-comfortable 2 1/2-length tally after controlling the pace throughout. Although most of her wins have come on the front end, Botanical displayed versatility in the Cincinnati Trophy, rallying from nine lengths off of a hot pace set by others.

Botanical obviously wasn’t facing the best the division had to offer at Turfway, and no Oaks winner has ever really emerged from that locale. However, nearly every filly in the Oaks lineup has questions to answer in regards to relative class, speed, or current form.

As far as surface goes, there simply is no logical reason Botanical won’t take to the dirt, despite not having yet run over it. She is by Medaglia d’Oro, whose Kentucky Oaks-winning or –placed offspring includes Rachel Alexandra, Plum Pretty, and Wonder Gadot. Another daughter, the newly-elected Hall of Famer Songbird, might have won the Oaks herself if not for an untimely setback that kept her out of the race.

Botanical was produced by the mare Daisy, whose signature win came on the dirt in the Tempted (G3) at Aqueduct as a two-year-old. She is by Blame, who famously captured the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs over Zenyatta, as well as the Stephen Foster H. (G1) and Clark H. (G1) over the strip. Coincidentally, Blame is also the sire of the aforementioned Wet Paint.

Botanical is the filly I’m most excited about heading into the Oaks, but I suspect the Louisiana form will, as it often does, prove strong as well. I’ll be linking the top three in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) – Southlawn, Pretty Mischievous, and the Cox-trained The Alys Look – in the exotics with Botanical.