06/29/2013 6:02PM

Monmouth Park: Laughing denies Dayatthespa in Eatontown

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Laughing, with Angel Serpa aboard, won the Eatontown Handicap on Saturday to improve to 2 for 2 on the Monmouth lawn.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Laughing beat 2-5 favorite Dayatthespa by three-quarters of a length Saturday in the Grade 3, $99,000 Eatontown Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf at Monmouth Park.

Laughing, a 5-year-old trained by Alan Goldberg, was sick over the winter, delaying her return. She came back fit and ready, but the spot looked daunting with Dayatthespa in the lineup.

The winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup last October, Dayatthespa was making her second start since suffering a potentially career-ending tendon injury in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Betfair Hollywood Park in November.

She returned to score a blowout win over New York-breds in early May. That victory, the Grade 1 win, and a glittering 7-for-10 resume depressed her odds heading into the Eatontown.

Scratched from the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont by trainer Chad Brown when the turf came up soft, Dayatthespa found a firm course at Monmouth and only four rivals awaiting her.

“I was hoping she would be second,” Goldberg said of his prerace expectations for Laughing. “Looking at the Form, you had a Grade 1 filly who runs her race every time and came back strong. But this was home and an easy ship.”

Laughing trains at the nearby Colts Neck Stable. Goldberg also leaned on the wisdom of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkins.

“The Chief always said, ‘If there’s one horse to beat, you might as well take a shot,’ ” Goldberg said.

Making her season debut, Laughing sat third for most of the race while Dayatthespa set a moderate pace, with longshot Peggy Joyce closely following the leader. Dayatthespa was on cruise control until the top of the lane. Laughing then mounted a challenge to her outside while Ruthenia launched a bid up the rail.

Laughing and Dayatthespa battled for a good portion of the stretch until Laughing edged away to improve her record at Monmouth to 2 for 2. She won the Grade 3 Matchmaker here last summer.

Angel Serpa was aboard for the 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.26. Laughing paid $14.20 to win. Ruthenia was third, followed by Namaskara and Peggy Joyce. The scratches of Naples Bay, Silver Screamer, Peace Preserver, and In the Rough reduced the field to five.