03/23/2013 7:24PM

Fair Grounds: Divine Loretta capitalizes on fast pace in Red Camelia

Hodges Photography/ Lynn Roberts
Divine Loretta, making her first start of the season, takes the Red Camelia under James Graham.

NEW ORLEANS – Taking advantage of a fast, contested pace, late-running Divine Loretta stormed to the lead in the stretch en route to a one-length victory in the Red Camelia on Saturday on the Fair Grounds turf course.

Jockey James Graham let Divine Loretta settle several lengths off the early pace as Ladyzarbridge and Little Polka Dot battled for the lead.

“I liked the two on the front end fighting it out,’’ said Sweet Hodges, who trains Divine Loretta for Randy Davis and Associates. “James rode a real good race, and she is a nice mare.’’

The fractions – 23.32 seconds for the quarter-mile, 47.80 for the half, and 1:12.64 were quick for the course. Ladyzarbridge faded out of contention on the backstretch, but Little Polka Dot held on to finish second, 1 ¼ lengths in front of third-place Burning Creole in a field of eight older Louisiana-bred fillies and mares.

Divine Loretta, who won for the sixth time in 21 starts, was racing for the first time this year.

“A great animal,’’ Graham said. “She’s had a lot of trouble trying to get in races that didn’t fill for her.’’

She’s 3 for 6 on the Fair Grounds turf and never finished out of the money on it.