Jean-Claude Rouget

The Pau-based trainer is well represented on Arc weekend and saddles last season’s third Sottsass plus three-year-old filly Raabihah in the feature contest.

  • Thursday 01 October
  • Blog
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By Liz Price

Jean-Claude Rouget is much more relaxed than he was last year in the weeks leading up to the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. In 2019 he saddled SOTTSASS, the Prix du Jockey Club winner and a horse he thought more than capable of winning the Arc.

In the end, he didn’t get past the much tougher and mud-loving Waldgeist and the dual Arc champion Enable, but he proved to be the best three-year-old when finishing a very respectable third, beaten only three and half lengths and finishing ahead of the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair Japan and Magical.

Watch every race from Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend at ParisLongchamp on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October.

This year, the Peter Brant owned Sottsass is going to line up again in the Arc, live on Sky Sports Racing, but unlike last season, he is no longer one of the favourites. In fact, he has been written off by many punters following a season that saw him win a weak Group 1 Prix Ganay in June and finish fourth behind Magical on his most recent start in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes.

However, his trainer says he is currently in great form and after a final gallop at Deauville on Wednesday he announced: “Sottsass worked well on today. Obviously, it is just a gallop to put him spot on, but I think he looks the best he has done all year. He is in good form. I really think he is back to his form from last year, but then, just like last year, he is not on his own in the Arc.”

At the age of four and with a season that started a lot later due to Covid-19, Sottsass has only run four times and Rouget continues: “I struggled to get him back to form due to the racing calendar, which was changed due to the pandemic. And I didn’t want to force things but get him to the Arc with some freshness. The Arc has always been his main target and while I agree that he hasn’t shown the same level of performance he showed last year, he should run well. In any case, the race in Ireland set him up nicely for this.”

Colin Keane who rode him in the Irish Champion Stakes, was actually very enthusiastic when he explained that his mount was just getting into his stride when they were approaching the finish line of the mile and a quarter race. He also said that he would have probably preferred softer ground. In Paris, he will get both, a longer trip and definitely soft, if not heavy ground.

Sottsass, who is by Siyouni out of Starlet’s Sister, is one of the horses at the start of the Arc that won’t mind the soft going, it remains an unknown element in the case of his stable companion RAABIHAH. Owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who has enjoyed an outstanding season in Great Britain, the three-year-old will try and crown it all by making the most of the fillies’ weight allowance in the Arc, but if she can handle soft ground is far from certain.

“I admit, I don’t know if Raabihah will be able to handle the soft ground,” Rouget says. “I’ve no idea.” In the past, Rouget has always talked highly about the daughter of Sea The Stars and Garmoosha. Still unexposed, she finished fourth to Fancy Blue in the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines, but that number 4 behind her name is misleading, as they finished in a heap and she was only beaten half a length in the end.

On her last start in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille, she was the runner-up to the Dermot Weld trained four-year-old Tarnawa, who had been trained with this race in mind and proved unbeatable on that day.

Raabihah, on the other hand, was given a lot to do by her jockey after galloping most of the mile and a half in last position. Once launched in the final straight, she quickened really well in the final four hundred meters and there should be more to come from her in the Arc. She has been abandoned by her usual jockey Christian Demuro who prefers to stay loyal to Sottsass and will now be ridden by Maxime Guyon who is still looking for a first victory in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

If Rouget is reluctant to comment any further on Raabihah, he is much more animated when he talks about TAWKEEL, another Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum owned three-year-old filly, who is very much fancied to win the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera. Unbeaten in four starts, the daughter of Teofilo and Rafaadah won the Group 2 Prix de la Nonette at Deauville in very soft ground in August.

He says: “Tawkeel also worked on Wednesday morning. Until now, she has done everything very easily and she must have a great chance of winning the Prix de l’Opera. It has always been her target and she has been improving with each run. She is an exciting filly.”

The Pau-based trainer, who also has a satellite yard in Deauville, is also saddling the two-year-old filly COEURSAMBA in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac

A winner over six furlongs on her second start, she finished third to the Nicolas Clement-trained King’s Harlequin in the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale at Deauville and this will be a big step up for her. Hence Rouget is rather cautious when he says: “She won her maiden and was third in two Group 3 races. This is going to be a lot tougher, but we are giving it a shot.”

It’s going to be a busy weekend for Jean-Claude Rouget, even if it won’t be as stressful as it was last year. He is hoping to start it off with a victory in the Qatar Prix Dollar on Saturday where he saddles GLYCON, a horse that loves heavy ground and that hasn’t run a lot. “No,” Rouget laughs and concludes. “He is like new, even though he is four. I really hope he can win this race; it would be a really nice start to the weekend.”

Watch every race from Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend at ParisLongchamp on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October.

Jean-Claude Rouget
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