No matter how hard she tried, Angela Hermann always seemed to wake her mother, Mary, on those frequent nights when she sneaked out of bed. Not even the fear of parental wrath could keep the 11-year-old away from the TV for the late-night show recapping the horse races at Canterbury Park. ¶ It was, Hermann admits, a strange obsession for a preteen girl. Unlike so many youthful flirtations, it only got stronger — which led her to an even more unusual place. Saturday, Hermann will call eight races at Canterbury, becoming the first woman in North America to announce a full thoroughbred race card.
The Apple Valley native got her first job at the Shakopee track when she was 16. Now 27, she is wrapping up her third season as Canterbury’s paddock analyst, handicapping races for the television feed shown at the track and around the country. She will fill in Saturday for regular track announcer Paul Allen, who will be in Detroit handling his other job doing radio play-by-play for the Vikings game.
“I’m very, very nervous inside, but I can’t show it,’’ said Hermann, who has called about a dozen races this summer. “It will be nerve-racking no matter what. But that’s what’s fun about it. There aren’t too many things that can get you going like that while you’re sitting still.’’
According to research by the Daily Racing Form and Canterbury Park, no woman has called a full thoroughbred card in the United States or Canada. The Form reported that Australia has one woman working as a full-time race caller, and another is training to become England’s first female racing announcer.
Hermann already was a horse-crazy girl in 1998, when Real Quiet’s victory in the Kentucky Derby made her heart race. She began watching the sport on TV every chance she got — including those late-night Canterbury recaps.
“I got in trouble a lot,’’ she said, “but I loved it.’’
At Canterbury, Hermann started as a clubhouse usher; four years later, she had landed a spot on the pre-race TV show and paddock preview. She was hired as the paddock analyst at Nebraska’s Lincoln Race Course in 2008 and took the same job at Canterbury in 2011. Last spring — during her first season as the paddock analyst at Hawthorne in Chicago — announcer Peter Galassi suggested she try calling a race.
Saturday’s card will be more challenging than her debut, which featured only three horses. Allen, who has been tutoring Hermann, said the most difficult part of calling races is overcoming anxiety and not obsessing over mistakes.
“Angela is playing very confidently, and she’s learning to build a crescendo,’’ said Allen, Canterbury’s announcer since 1995. “I never doubted her verve and passion.’’
Allen said he would like to see Hermann develop enough skill to become a full-time race announcer. She prefers the analyst’s role, where she can interact more with fans and share her love of the sport.
Saturday, Hermann will wear both hats. She is preparing for her calls by handicapping the races, to familiarize herself with the horses’ names and tendencies. In the booth, she will rely on her excellent memory and ability to speak quickly, yet clearly.
“It’s exciting to see it all come together and know that people are on board with it,’’ Hermann said. “I like to know that for all the women who have made history in this sport, I’m going to add my name to the list.’’