Award Process

In February 2014 the NZRHF Board announced the establishment of the above award which has as its objective “to improve the awareness of mainstream media people in the NZ horse breeding and racing industries”. This Award was established to honour our founding director and media personality - the late Phillip Leishman ONZM.

Phillip sadly passed away in March 2013. A special tribute to Phillip was played at our 2014 induction event.


We have established three components to this award:

  1. Attendance at selected race meetings with celebrities such as Kylie Bax, Bridgette and Lance O’Sullivan;

  2. Attendance at the Karaka Premier Yearling sales as an observer with the TVN television crew (Australia) and possibly with Trackside.

  3. As an observer with the TVN television crew in early January of each year when they visit Waikato and Auckland stud farms.

As noted above the award is a practical media award which will provide the awardee with a practical exposure to the NZ racing and breeding industries which will enable them to present our industry in an informative manner during their future media career.

The award is aimed at an emerging media person as our target audience must be younger people.

The process for nomination is as follows:

  1. Applications invited from candidates (ages 18 to 30) involved in media or media studies to be received by 30 September 2015 

  2. Announce the awardee by 1 November of each year;

  3. Provide a cash grant to the awardee and fund their expenses;

  4. Assign a director to be the point of contact for the awardee;

  5. As part of the award the awardee would report back to the Board on their experience and would address the following Induction Event.

2016 Awardee - Vanessa Veart-Smith of Auckland

Vanessa Veart-Smith of Auckland is the 2016 recipient of the Leishman Media Racing Awareness Award.

Vanessa is General Manager of a rural and equestrian Sky television channel called Country TV.  Vanessa has a strong interest in the NZ thoroughbred racing and breeding industries since a young age, having been raised up with an avid racing fan for a father.

She is now a competitive show jumper, and has re-trained many thoroughbreds off the track, for the sport horse industry. Vanessa was interested in applying for this Award for many reasons, personally, professionally, and also for development for the equestrian channel.

The knowledge she has gained from Country TV as a presenter on-screen, studio and on the field, in addition as an executive producer, journalist and camera operator, has contributed to her development of a wider skillset will benefit further from this Award.

Country TV hosts the NZ Racing Hall of Fame inductee videos which are currently playing on the channel.

Vanessa's knowledge gained through this Award will assist her to promote thoroughbred racing and breeding on television in NZ and focus on creating more magazine, behind the scenes, history and perosnality style television shows all about racing.

Vanessa is pictured below with John Thompson of Rich Hill Stud - Matamata with his 2015 Melbourne Cup as breeder of the winner Prince of Penzance.


As part of Vanessa's scholarship work she arranged for filming of the 2016 Karaka Weanling sales which was edited into the film clip below.




Vanessa was introduced to the NZ Racing Hall of Fame audience at the 2016 induction dinner. Michelle Leishman (Phil's widow) also spoke about her husband's love of racing in the video below"


2015 Awardee - Indie Leishman of Auckland

India (Indie) Leishman is a final year student at the University of Otago studying for a Bachelor of Arts degreemajoring in Communications with a minor in Marketing.

With the dream to one day present the news at six o'clock, she has involved herself in the media industry from a young age. At five years she particpated alongside he father Phillip Leishman at the Sharemilker of the Year Awards and from here her goal was set.

Since this age she has been involved in the world of media; sitting in on many of her father's voice overs, as well as watching his show being filmed through the control room.

In 2012 India spent three days filming for "Just the Job" a career based television show directed at young teens looking for potential career options. This was a great experience for Indie to be in front of the camera.

Since then she has worked on many film, radio, and print media projects throughout her university studies; including interview programs, radio podcasts, journalsim blogging and working in a production team.

In 2014 Indie spent two weeks interning at TVNZ shadowing and learning from the many presenters and gaining their advice on this ever changing industry. This was an invaluable experience for Indie working alongside some of the country's best journalists and presenters.

The racing industry has alays been a part of Indie's life, due to her father's heavy involvement, and from a young age she remembers attending the Boxing Day races and always thoroughly enjoying her time at Ellerslie with friends and family. 

Indie's Reflections

26th December- Boxing Day Races                                 

The Boxing Day races are notorious for being one of Auckland highlights in the summer social calendar.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the races to accompany world famous super model and presenter Kylie Bax. Spending the day with Kylie really opened up my eyes to the world of racing broadcasting. We began the day at Ellerslie down at the birdcage where Kylie did a cross over to Trackside talking about what was in store for the day.

This continued through out the day at different meeting spots such as the Garnier Sunflower Lawn, Specsavers Tent and the Fashion in the Fields.

It was such a privilege to spend the whole day with a consummate professional. She taught me the importance of working hard in situations where you are surrounded by your friends and family.

25th January- Karaka Million Twilight Races

The Twilight Races took place at Ellerslie racecourse on the Sunday of Auckland Anniversary weekend. I was fortunate enough to be invited along to spend the day mingling with the racing elite. Jessie Gower from New Zealand Bloodstock was looking after me for the two Karaka events. She also introduced me to Kate Carter from Mojo PR.

I spent the evening at their event mingling with many of New Zealand’s top journalists within the racing arena. Many journalists and reporters took great interest in me and why I was there, all offering valuable advice on how to approach the media industry. I came away from this event with many wonderful contacts and it was an invaluable experience for me.

26th January- Karaka Sales

The following day I attended the Karaka Sales out at the sale yard. This was a truly exciting and new experience for me. Again, Jessie from New Zealand Bloodstock looked after me.

Firstly I was introduced to Matt Mclean from One News who was filming that day. I then spent an hour or so following him and his camera crew around watching him interview different people at this event.

After this I went and spent time with Caroline Searcy from TVN and watched her live broadcast, which was shown on Trackside and TVN in Australia.

Chris Luoni, Chairman of the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame also spent a long time introducing me to the directors of the Racing Hall of Fame. It was wonderful to meet the people who were responsible for this incredible opportunity.

This scholarship has been so valuable to my life and future career.

The introduction to the racing media industry that I have received has been much appreciated. I hope that in the near future I will have the chance to thank this industry for the wonderful opportunity I have been given.


Photo Gallery

Indie with Gerald Fell & Chris Luoni (NZRHF Directors); and with Kylie Bax & Chris Luoni at Karaka Sales - January 2015.