12/30/2005 1:00AM

Deep Impact tops great year for Asia

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
George Washington captured the Group 1 Phoenix (above) and National.

NEW YORK - The general trend in racing in 2005 continued to flow away from the United States toward Asia and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Europe. The increased firepower available in Japan and Hong Kong was in evidence as those countries took four of the six late-season multimillion-dollar races at Tokyo and Sha Tin, while Hong Kong-based sprinters Silent Witness and Cape of Good Hope won Group 1 or Grade 1 races in Japan, Australia, and England.

But the biggest Asian story of the year was Deep Impact. From the next-to-last crop of Sunday Silence, he emerged as an undefeated winner of the Japanese Triple Crown and is being touted in most Japanese circles as the best horse in Japan's racing history. Trainer Yasuo Ikee is planning a Deep Impact assault on the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October, although plans have not been finalized as to when he will arrive in France. Ikee has the option of sending him directly to Paris on the eve of the race, sending him a few weeks early for a single prep, or having him spend the summer in France, as did Japanese invader El Condor Pasa in 1999, when he won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the Prix Foy en route to an excellent second behind Montjeu in the Arc.

Montjeu himself was the biggest breeding story of the year. A son of Sadler's Wells, his first crop included Motivator, winner of the Epsom Derby; Scorpion, the St. Leger Stakes winner; and Hurricane Run, the Irish Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, who will almost certainly be crowned European champion when the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Ratings are announced later this month.

A meeting between the Andre Fabre-trained Hurricane Run and Deep Impact in the Arc would be one to savor, although there is obviously a lot of time between now and Oct. 1.

Injury played an unfortunately large role during 2005. Both of Godolphin's best horses, Shamardal and Dubawi, fell prey to that nemesis. Shamardal, winner of the French 2000 Guineas and French Derby, was retired after his victory in the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot at York, while Dubawi, the best product of the great Dubai Millennium's only crop, was retired after victories in the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Prix Jacques le Marois.

It was in the Jacques le Marois that Divine Proportions suffered not only her lone defeat but also a career-ending setback. The Kingmambo filly had scored impressive triumphs in both the French 1000 Guineas and the French Oaks, as well as the Group 1 Prix d'Astarte to run her record to a perfect 9 for 9 before hurting her right fore tendon at Deauville on Aug. 14.

On the juvenile front, two sons of Danehill, George Washington and Horatio Nelson, had us contemplating their rosy futures while scrambling to the history books as well. George Washington was installed as the antepost favorite for the 2000 Guineas with Group 1 wins in the six-furlong Phoenix Stakes and the seven-furlong National Stakes. Meanwhile, Horatio Nelson was made the favorite for the Epsom Derby following tallies in a pair of seven-furlong events, the Group 2 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. In his final start, he was unlucky when second to Sir Percy in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes. As a son of English Oaks winner Imagine, he should certainly improve the farther he goes.

Much of the news since the end of the British season in November has been made by Godolphin. After a supbar year by his standards, Godolphin's Sheikh Mohammed has been buying away some of the best talent in training on both sides of the Atlantic, but particularly in Europe. His purchases include no fewer than six Group 1 winners. Among them are a pair of ex-Aga Khan horses, Irish Oaks and Prix Vermeille winner Shawanda and Queen Anne Stakes winner Valixir. Then there is Juddmonte International winner Electrocutionist, who was plucked away from Earle Mack, and Gonbarda, a German-bred filly who beat older colts in Deutschland-Preis and the Preis von Europa. A pair of 2-year-olds, Racing Post Trophy champ Palace Episode and Prix Morny winner Silca's Sister, round out Godolphin's ready-made Group 1 team.

Godolphin has also picked up Racing Post runner-up Winged Cupit and Jean-Luc Lagardere second Opera Cape, as well as Group 2 winners Oiseau Rare and Pinson. And on Tuesday, it announced the purchase of With Interest, a Selkirk colt formerly owned by George Strawbridge. With Interest won first time out in a 19-runner Newbury maiden race on Oct. 7.

Add to those Discreet Cat, who earned a 106 Beyer Figure for his 3 1/2-length debut maiden score at Saratoga on Aug. 27, and Godolphin looks well stocked at the start of the 2006 season.

In addition to Deep Impact, Hurricane Run, George Washington, and Horatio Nelson, Europe can look forward to the opening of a brand-new Ascot grandstand. The $350 million state-of-the-art structure will open unofficially on May 3 for its Sagaro Stakes meeting, which will serve as a dry run for the best party of the year, the five-day Royal Ascot meeting June 20-24.