The benchmark for farming success is measured in many ways.

In sheep farming it comes down to lambing percentages and meat yield, while milksolid production is the yardstick for dairy and in cropping it comes down to yield per hectare.

In horse farming, or thoroughbred breeding terms at least, the benchmark is the success of progeny produced.

Few have achieved as well in that endeavour than one of Nigel and Adaire Auret's bought-in mares, Quality Eyes.

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The 11 foals she has produced have chalked up an incredible 49 victories, 37 of them bred at the Auret's Letham Stud in Whanganui. And of those foals, several have yet to race.

Quality Eyes is a well-bred mare by Danzero out of Close Your Eyes and a $100,000 purchase at the yearling sales by a client of now-retired trainer Grant Searle.

Searle managed to produce her to win on debut, but struggled to even have her place in nine subsequent race-day runs.

The Aurets discovered her at the now-defunct Stoney Bridge Thoroughbred Ltd's dispersal sale and bought her for paltry $600.

"We saw two at that dispersal sale — Quality Eyes and a Danehill mare who had a dodgy breeding history," Nigel Auret recalled.

"I was busy so sent Adaire up to bid and she came home with the two. The Danehill mare kept missing, so we ditched her, but Quality Eyes has proven an excellent decision. Her foals have won 49 races and not too many mares can claim that.

"Her first foal, Raarke, won once and her second, Krase, trained by Kevin Myers in Whanganui, won 11, including an Australian Steeplechase."

The remainder of wins by her progeny are sons and daughters of the Aurets' own ill-fated stallion, Mettre En Jeu.

The most prolific of those is Overtheriver, also trained by Myers, who has chalked up an impressive 20 victories. She and Mettre En Jeu have combined to produce eight foals, including Overtheriver.

In what would have been a unique situation, three full siblings were to line up on the same day at the Whanganui race meeting on Queen's Birthday Saturday. However, five-year-old Under The Bridge was sold on the eve of the winter meeting.

Quality Eyes still has a four-year-old mare, three-year-old colt and a yearling filly waiting in the wings to add to her impressive tally.

Mettre En Jeu, however, must have been a massive influence. His dam and one of the Aurets' classic matriarchs, Delgatie Queen, produced seven foals who racked up 22 wins between them. Many were black-type victories.

The most prolific was Saint Cecile — who won eight races at group one, two and three level.

The Aurets are no strangers to setting benchmarks.

As a farming operation the return per hectare at Letham is well-documented as arguably far exceeding any other form of land-production enterprise.

The Aurets featured several years ago in a forerunner of this publication, and while reluctant to publicly release exact figures, their operation easily out-grossed dairying, forestry and sheep and production on a return-per-hectare-based assessment.

A recent return to Letham revealed little has changed in that regard, and in fact could have even improved despite the tough economic climate the thoroughbred industry is currently operating within. From their pristine 200-acre farm on State Highway 3 just south of Whanganui, the Aurets have consistently produced top-class animals.

Since the untimely demise of Mettre En Jeu just before Christmas 2017, probably to a heart attack, the Aurets have put their faith in another stallion, Unusual Suspect.

Nigel Auret and his well-bred and well-credentialed new kid on the block, Unusual Suspect.
Nigel Auret and his well-bred and well-credentialed new kid on the block, Unusual Suspect.

Unusual Suspect was the winner of the Gr.1 Hollywood Turf Cup and the Gr.3 Hollywood Turf Handicap in his native North America before he was sent to Australia where he continued his career with leading Victorian trainer Mick Kent.

Unusual Suspect won the Listed Werribee Cup for Kent, finished third in the Listed Sandown Cup and fourth in the Gr.2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes.

He was also fourth in the Gr.1 Caulfield Cup and although only ninth in the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup, he was only four lengths off the winner Dunaden.

"He won seven stakes races and placed in another 10 so he was a very, very good horse," Auret said.

Alongside the horse-breeding operation the Aurets run 20 charolais-cross cows, selling the progeny as weaners each year.