11/06/2007 1:00AM

Keeneland Day 1: Average, gross rise

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. – The Keeneland November sale in Lexington launched with a record on Monday when Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley paid a world-record $10.5 million for the broodmare Playful Act.

That record sale, which surpassed the previous record of $9.4 million set last year in England, helped lift the opening session's bottom line. The first session sold 194 horses for gross receipts of $109,064,000, up 30 percent from last year's opener, when 164 horses sold. The average price increased 10 percent, from $510,945 to $562,186. But median fell 8 percent, from $297,500 to $272,500. The buyback rate in a market generally considered strong for quality dropped from 30 percent to 19 percent. Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, said he believed the low buyback rate and drop in median suggested that more lower-end horses were able to be sold this year, causing the dip in median.

The session-topping mare, Playful Act, was sold by the late Robert Sangster family's Swettenham Stud, with Hill 'n' Dale Farms acting as agent. The Sadler's Wells mare had been bred to Kingmambo but had aborted by the time of the auction.

The two-week sale continued Tuesday at 10 a.m. The auction, which has a record catalg of 5,415 horses this year, runs through Nov. 19.