Jean-Claude Rouget was born in 1953 in Normandy, a stone throw from Haras de Saint-Pair du Mont which was managed by his father Claude. In 1967, Claude Rouget left the farm and started up as a trainer on the brand new training centre of Senonnes, in the West of France. This was where the young Jean-Claude rode his first canters. As a teenager, however, Jean-Claude Rouget proved a better runner (he won a regional title over 1500 metres at 19) than rider (his career as an amateur was short-lived). Yet he naturally followed in his father footsteps after gaining experience in Chantilly, with Jean-Michel de Choubersky and Freddy Palmer, as well as in England, working for Paul Cole and Ian Balding.
Rouget took out his training licence in 1978, aged 25, and chose the burgeoning training centre of Pau, in South-western France. A dual-purpose trainer in his first years, he saddled his first winner with his first runner and gradually became a dominant force in the Southwest. 1991 proved a landmark season, in the course of which the yard registered a first Group title on the flat as well as totalling 180 wins, a figure that broke François Mathet’s 19-year-old record.
From 1993 onwards, Jean-Claude Rouget chose to concentrate exclusively on the flat and set himself the bold challenge to rise to the very top of the French trainer standings, which at the time seemed reserved for Chantilly-based professionals. The following year, he was already heading in the right direction. His charges set a new (and still standing) record of 242 wins in one season, while the outstanding Millkom, unbeaten in six outings in the Southwest, took Paris by storm when landing the Prix Jean Prat and Grand Prix de Paris, both Gr.1. His ten-strong winning streak came to an end in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe yet the horse bounced back the following year to score in the Gr.1 Man O’War Stakes.
In 2007, a corner was turned when Literato, a €38,000 yearling buy who had run 2nd in the Prix du Jockey Club, scored in the Champion Stakes. That same season, the Aga Khan Studs started their association with Rouget, quickly enjoying numerous winners. The first Group title for the new team was presented by two-year-old colt Behkabad, who took the Gr.3 Prix des Chênes in 2009.
2009 was a year of multiple crowning achievements for the Pau-based professional. After 30 years of longing for a first Classic, he won three in one season! Elusive Wave landed the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches for American owner Martin Schwartz, Le Havre rewarded Gérard Augustin-Normand’s ambitious investments with victory in the Prix du Jockey Club, and a week later Stacelita ruled in the Prix de Diane (again in the Schwartz colours), with her stable mate Tamazirte in second. Unsurprisingly, on the back of such an awesome campaign, Jean-Claude Rouget was French champion trainer.