11/02/2005 1:00AM

Pleasant Laughter in right spot


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Phil Serpe had two reasons to be happy about scratching Pleasant Laughter out of Wednesday's Miss Oceana Stakes in favor of Friday's featured entry-level allowance race at Aqueduct.

First, Friday's $46,000 race at one mile looks like an easier spot. Second, Play Ballado, who soundly defeated Pleasant Laughter by 6 1/4 lengths when they met at this condition level on Oct. 10, was an easy winner of Wednesday's Miss Oceana.

"I think it's a better spot for her to run," Serpe said Wednesday afternoon.

, Flaming Heart, and Merrill Gold look like the three most logical fillies to win the race, which also carries an optional claiming price of $75,000. Only Merrill Gold is offered for the claiming price.

It took Pleasant Laughter eight tries to win her maiden, something she accomplished by four lengths at Belmont on Sept. 17. In her next start, she came back to run second against Play Ballado, rallying nicely on the outside while finishing 2 1/2 lengths clear of the rest of the field.

"I thought it was encouraging coming off of her maiden win," Serpe said of Pleasant Laughter's last race. "You like to see the horses move forward, and I think she certainly did. If she continues to do so she'll be a good horse in the coming months."

Pleasant Laughter will break from post 4 Friday under Javier Castellano.

was a debut winner in her only Aqueduct start in April. After being pulled up in her second start, Flaming Heart has finished second in five consecutive races. In her most recent effort, Flaming Heart finished second, a half-length ahead of Play Ballado and 2 1/2 lengths behind Elusive Diva.

"She's a nice filly and tries hard, and she's run into some good ones," said Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Flaming Heart. "She's doing very well and hopefully her number will come up sooner rather than later."

McLaughlin got his Aqueduct meeting off to a good start by saddling Like Now to victory in Wednesday's fifth race.

is a tricky read in this spot. She defeated Flaming Heart three starts back and finished third, beaten 3 1/4 lengths behind Sweet Symphony in a July 28 allowance race at Saratoga. Sweet Symphony subsequently won the Grade 1 Alabama, while Merrill Gold finished last in the Grade 3 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks. She is now being offered for a tag.

On the plus side, Merrill Gold could be the main speed under Norberto Arroyo Jr.