IT IS the end of an era for Leigh Hardingham.
Hardingham is “sort of retiring” and moving to Port Macquarie in the coming months, but his service to horse racing on the Far South Coast was acknowledged on Friday.
The Sapphire Coast Turf Club’s final race during the Merimbula Cup was named the Leigh Hardingham Plate for his many years of service to the club.
Hardingham moved to the area in 1971 and has since been an integral part of sport across the region.
Hardingham said he was happy to have the race named after him.
“It was very nice, a little recognition,” Hardingham said.
It was a fitting reward for a man who has dedicated 35 years of service to horse racing in the area.
“I was on the formation committee of the new race course which was formed in 1989.
“And I was secretary of the Bega Jockey Club when they amalgamated with the Imlay Jockey club to form the Sapphire Coast Turf Club.
“Prior to that I was secretary of the Bega Jockey Club for 10 years,” he said.
It was a decade later when the club was able to launch the new race course.
“We spent 10 years working on the building of the new race course,” Hardingham said.
“And then we opened the new track in February of 1999.”
Hardingham has also spent 10 years promoting local sports - especially racing - on ABC radio.
“I’d done almost 10 years on the ABC sports show where I do a lot of promotion on the racing.”
A number of other clubs have also benefitted from Hardingham’s community spirit including Group 16 and lawn bowls.
“I’ve been associated with Group 16, I was secretary for six years and have been associated with the Bega Roosters for a long time,” he said.
Hardingham is also the president of the Tathra Men’s Bowling Club, but will “finish up” by the end of the month.
Hardingham said he would miss the area after raising his family here.
“The area has been very good to me, the South Coast, I’ve loved it down here.
“We’ve reared our family here, we’ve only got one daughter left in the Bega Valley, while the others have moved away.
“It’s just moving on, I’ll probably retire, but we’ll see.”
Hardingham said he would miss everyone on the Far South Coast and his home at Tathra.
“It’s been a great life here, Tathra is a wonderful town and we’ve got a lot to be thankful for,” he said.
Hardingham was at the course on Friday to watch the race in his namesake.
For someone who has given so much, it was almost poetic that the race was won by locally trained All Giving.