Bill Oppenheim
Sometimes, things just crystallize right before your eyes: the light goes on. Often this unshakeable conviction unravels at the eighth pole, but occasionally inspiration strikes when you’re trying to divine the secrets of the Thoroughbred marketplace.
— Bill Oppenheim / Thoroughbred Daily News

For the 2015 breeding season in Kentucky, nine stallions at four farms are standing for the same fee: $35,000. For 2015, that is 'The Number.' Well over 1,000 mares are going to be bred at that fee. Whatever the market might be like for the resulting yearlings in 2017, and whatever the commercial status of these sires then (which will have more to do with what those 2017 yearlings bring than the $35,000 stud fee the breeders will have paid), right now this is an impressive group of names. Who are we talking about? In order of the year they had their first foals, the nine are:

Congrats (A.P. Indy)

Ranks #3 on the North American 2-Year-Old Sire List with his first Kentucky crop. He stood that season (2011) for $15,000, but has been at $35,000 since, so his current ranking justifies the existing price, in his case. So it should: he has stepped up.

Congrats / Winstar (p)

Hard Spun (Danzig)

Returns from Japan at a lower fee than before he went but hello, he's #10 on the TDN YTD General Sire List (NA only) with three new Grade I winners this year, including GI Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong and GI Arlington Million winner Hardest Core.

Hard Spun / Darley (p)

Scat Daddy (Johannesburg)

This horse is about one Group 1 winner away from being a really big-time sire. Last year his 2-year-olds included Group 1 winner No Nay Never, and this year he's the leading North American sire by 2-year-old winners, with 21. He's also re-writing the record books from his Chilean crops.

Scat Daddy / Ashford (p)

Street Sense (Street Cry)

After unbeaten Ocho Ocho Ocho's win in the $1-million GIII Delta Jackpot, Street Sense ranks #11 on the North American 2-Year-Old Sire List and #20 on the NA General Sire List, on which he is one place behind his own sire, Street Cry. Street Sense has 96 winners this year, including nine black-type winners; Street Cry has 97 winners and nine black-type winners. So he's not far behind his old man.

Street Sense / Darley

Curlin (Smart Strike)
Lane's End

Runaway leader amongst North American third-crop sires, is #12 on the NA General Sire List with no fewer than 13 graded stakes horses this year, even though just two of them are graded stakes winners. Considering his advancement from his first 3-year-olds to his first 4-year-olds this year, it would be no surprise to see quite a few of those graded stakes horses convert to graded stakes winners next year.

Curlin / Lane's End (p)

Quality Road (Elusive Quality)
Lane's End

The #1 North American Freshman Sire. He was a really high-class racehorse but didn't necessarily figure as a sire of 2-year-olds, so this is a big result, even given he covered a lot of the best Ned Evans mares in 2011.

Quality Road / Lane's End (p)

Super Saver (Maria's Mon)

The #2 North American Freshman Sire. Market darling with his first yearlings in 2013, came good. Not all do.

Super Saver / Winstar (p)

Union Rags (Dixie Union)
Lane's End

The #1 North American first-crop sire at the November sales, with 17 sold for an average of $133,941. Frankel will be the overall leader by a mile, but this horse has good credentials and good support, and is popular.

Union Rags / Lane's End (p)

Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux)

Ranks #3 amongst North American first-crop covering sires, with 22 mares in foal averaging $170,173. The only horse ever to win the GI Kentucky Derby (dirt) and G1 Dubai World Cup (synthetic), and a really interesting prospect from the pedigree point of view, being by the Blushing Groom-line sire Leroidesanimaux out of a top German mare by their multiple champion sire Acatenango. He has as close to an 'outcross' pedigree as it's possible to find these days (he is 4x4 Lyphard, but that's about it).

Animal Kingdom / Darley (p)

These are some really serious stallions and top prospects. Most have probably already filled up, but for breeders that have mares that can justify a $35,000 stud fee, if your mare isn't already committed and you can get into one of these horses (assuming good conformation and pedigree matches, of course), this price, this year, looks like a key number.