The latest example of the international impact of Keeneland’s Thoroughbred auctions is the success of the 3-year-old filly Light of Darkness, who sold here as a weanling and is one of 2021’s most accomplished performers in Turkey. Owner Cem Sevim purchased Light of Darkness at Keeneland’s 2018 November Breeding Stock Sale and watched her score a 1½-length victory in the $130,000 Turkish 1000 Guineas, the nation’s biggest race for the division, on May 16 at Veliefendi race course in Istanbul.
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Red Rocks (IRE) has won five consecutive group stakes during her undefeated season.
“She did a great job, and she is the most popular horse in Turkey,” said Sevim, a former professional soccer player who lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a developer and has a construction company. “We have a plan to take her to a couple of European tracks for racing and hopefully to Dubai next year. Of course, my big dream is returning home with her and have few races in Kentucky. After all, she is from there.”
Light of Darkness was bred by Calumet Farm, where Red Rocks – a member of the first crop by Galileo (IRE) who won the 2006 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs and the 2008 Man o’ War (G1) at Belmont – stood until his death in 2018.
The filly is out of the Grade 2-placed winning Danehill mare Charming Legacy (IRE) and from the family of Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Rock Your World, a candidate for the June 5 Belmont (G1) Presented by NYRA Bets, and Grade 2 winner Liam the Charmer. Charming Legacy is the dam of seven starters with seven winners.
Ballysax Bloodstock, agent, consigned Light of Darkness to the November Sale. She sold for $1,000.
“Moment I see her, I loved her,” Sevim said. “Honestly, I was ready to pay much more.”
In fact, he was the lone bidder.
“Back then I couldn’t believe that nobody (bid) on her and still can’t,” he said. “I understand more and more how blessed I was.”
Sevim, who said he returns to Turkey “10 times a year, at least” and has attended all nine of Light of Darkness’ career races, owns breeding stock and racehorses both in Turkey and the U.S. His brother Ozgur Sevim handles paperwork related to the operation, and he named the filly.
Cem Sevim said he became interested in horses as a boy and fondly remembers how his late mother encouraged him to take a noontime nap each day.
“(At the time) TV programs were very limited and my favorite show was ‘Bonanza,’ ” he said. “(She’d tell me) if I take a nap, when I wake up (a man named) Hans is going to bring his white horse and tie him to the tree in front of our house and I can feed and pet him.
“I was a child with lots of imagination, so I didn’t know the horse belonged to the guy who sells milk to the neighborhood. Back then, those vendors used horses to carry the milk gallons. My mother knew his delivery time was the same as when I woke up, and she also knew how much I loved that show. She put two and two together and started my career.
“I fed that horse couple of years and said hi to the guy, thinking he was Hans ‘Cartwright.’ He was so similar (to a character on ‘Bonanza.’) He had white hat; he was big and had a very nice smile. She used to wake me up by saying, ‘Hans and his horse arrived.’ Now I am telling her, ‘Mom, my horses have arrived.’
“I am sure she hears me, and I am pretty sure she has a big part in all my winnings.”
Traveling to the source
Sevim, who first attended a Keeneland sale in 2016, is among the large group of Turkish horsemen who annually buy horses at the November Sale, but they usually concentrate on broodmares. The purchase of Light of Darkness as a weanling represents a new opportunity for them and for Keeneland.
“I think she is (Keeneland’s) best promoter in Turkey now,” Sevim said. “People are asking left and right about her relatives and all about her. (Keeneland will) probably see lots of interested buyers this year. It is like a fashion: One goes, the rest follow.”