Bred in Ontario by Sam-Son Farm, Mission of Joy had one of the strongest pedigrees of any of the race’s entrants. She is a daughter of the late Kitten’s Joy, a two-time leader of the American general sire list and a perennial leader among North American turf sires. On the distaff side, she hails from a strong Canadian family that entered North America via Auburn’s Pride, an English-bred daughter of 1954 English champion older male and two-time English champion sire Aureole (by Hyperion).
Auburn’s Pride ended up being exported to Venezuela in 1974, but she did produce one stakes winner among her seven North American foals in New Pride (by Julmar), who took the Buttons and Bows Handicap at Exhibition Park in 1974 as a 3-year-old. More importantly, Auburn’s Pride left behind New Pride’s year-older half sister, Hanging Round, a Kentucky-bred daughter of 1968 Belmont Stakes winner and American co-champion 3-year-old male Stage Door Johnny.
Hangin Round failed to win or place in five starts, but after coming into the hands of Ontario breeder Mrs. George T. Coker, she produced four stakes winners and was honored as Canada’s 1980 Broodmare of the Year. The most notable of the quartet was two-time Canadian champion filly Rainbow Connection (by Halo), in turn the dam of three-time Canadian champion Rainbows for Life (by Lyphard), 1990 CIGA Prix de l’Opera (FR-G2) winner Colour Chart (by Mr. Prospector), and 1994 Cup and Saucer Stakes (CAN-R) winner Always a Rainbow (by Mr. Prospector). Exported to eastern Europe, Rainbows for Life became a champion sire in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, while Colour Chart is the dam of 2001 American champion 2-year-old filly Tempera (by A.P. Indy) and multiple French Group 3 winner Equerry (by St. Jovite).
Hangin Round’s 1984 daughter by Vice Regent, Hangin on a Star, also proved a classy race mare in Canada, taking the 1987 Breeders’ Stakes (the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown). As a broodmare for Sam-Son, she produced 1993 Canadian champion 2-year-old male Comet Shine (by Fappiano) and Misty Mission (by Miswaki), winner of the 2000 Wonder Where Stakes (the third leg of Canada’s Triple Tiara series). Hangin on a Star is also the second dam of 1999 Derby Trial Stakes (USA-G3) winner Patience Game (by Woodman)
Misty Mission took up where her dam left off as a broodmare, producing two-time Canadian champion filly Irish Mission (by Giant’s Causeway), two-time Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap (USA-G3) winner French Beret (by Broad Brush), and 2018 West Virginia Senate President’s Cup Stakes winner Mythical Mission (by Giant’s Causeway). In addition, she is the dam of Smart Mission, a Smart Strike filly who won both her starts before being forced to retire from racing. Smart Mission produced Mission of Joy as her third foal and has since produced an unnamed 2-year-old filly by Omaha Beach and a yearling filly by Union Rags.
As the Florida Oaks is a turf race and does not carry points toward the Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-G1), it seems unlikely that Mission of Joy will be pointed in that direction. That does not mean that Mission of Joy will be absent from the North American classic scene, however, Although she finished ninth in her sole try on Woodbine’s Tapeta surface—in her first race—she has clearly matured since then, and the Woodbine Oaks and the other Canadian Triple Tiara races (the Bison City Stakes over Fort Erie’s Polytrack surface and the Wonder Where Stakes on Woodbine’s turf course) could be logical targets, as could the Breeders’ Stakes, also on turf. There are also important stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies coming up later in the season, so Mission of Joy’s connections have a number of potential targets. With a pedigree that points toward continued improvement as she continues to mature, that makes Mission of Joy an interesting miss to keep an eye on as 2023 progresses.