09/06/2003 12:00AM

Don'tsellmeshort in soft spot


DEL MAR, Calif. - Don'tsellmeshort ran the best race of his career when he scored a three-length win in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar on July 30.

It was enough for owner Cecil Peacock and trainer Dan Hendricks to think about trying a graded stakes at this meeting - the Best Pal on Aug. 17, or Wednesday's Del Mar Futurity. But instead they are taking a more conservative route, starting Don'tsellmeshort in Monday's $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes.

The purse is less than the $250,000 offered in the Del Mar Futurity, but the I'm Smokin Stakes, like the Graduation, is restricted to California-breds.

"We gave him a little freshening with five weeks between starts," Hendricks said. "I love the position we're in."

Don'tsellmeshort has an experience and tactical advantage in the I'm Smokin. None of his five opponents has won a stakes, and few have the same speed as Don'tsellmeshort.

Patrick Valenzuela rides Don'tsellmeshort, who will carry 124 pounds and spot his rivals from seven to nine pounds.

"I don't think he's one-dimensional," Hendricks said of Don'tsellmeshort's speed. "I think he'll be on the lead as long as he breaks sharp and can put daylight on the field in the first 20 yards. You don't take speed away from a 2-year-old."

In the Graduation, Don'tsellme-short led throughout. He failed to make the lead after a slow stat in the Haggin Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 21 and faded to finish fourth.

Don'tsellmeshort will be challenged early by Pioneerman, who has not raced since May, and Winter Squall, a maiden winner here over 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 3.

On May 7, the A.C. Avila-trained Pioneerman won a maiden race for California-breds by 3 1/2 lengths in his second start, easily beating Don'tsellmeshort, who was making his career debut.

Jeff Bonde starts P Town John and Winter Squall, who were fifth and sixth in the Alameda County Futurity at Pleasanton on July 4 in their only stakes appearance. P Town John has since won twice at this meeting, beating maiden claimers on Aug. 4 and winning a starter allowance on Aug. 21.

The closers are Bewitching Bartok and Dave the Dude. Bewitching Bartok beat maidens in his fifth start on Aug. 16. Dave the Dude won his first start but is winless in his last three, including a third in the Haggin Stakes.