Hermann trying to share her love of horse racing with wider audience
Real Quiet won the 1998 Kentucky Derby, and Angela Hermann, an 11-year-old from Apple Valley, cheered him all the way home.
Why did Hermann care? One, she loved horses. Two, she had picked Real Quiet to win.
“I guess you could say that was the beginning of the end,” Hermann said with a laugh. Picking winners now is part of Hermann’s job as paddock analyst at Canterbury Park, a position she has had for five years.
Her association with the racetrack goes back much farther. As soon as she was legal to drive, she sought a job at Canterbury. “I had a job I could walk to, which I quit the day I got the call from Canterbury,” she said.
After starting as an usher, she also worked in group sales, guest services and the track’s information office before becoming paddock analyst. Her predecessor in that role was Burnsville native Kevin Gorg, who was leaving to take a job with Fox Sports North.
“I kind of took the baton from Kevin,” Hermann said. “He taught me a lot, and I also picked up a lot from other people throughout the country.”
In addition to handicapping races, Hermann writes material for the race program and appears on Canterbury Park TV productions that are simulcast to tracks throughout the country.
According to Canterbury Park’s statistics, Hermann has correctly picked the winners in 30 percent of the races in the 2015 live racing season. Her return on investment is .87, meaning that anybody who followed all her handicapping plays in every race would have turned a profit.
“You’d always like the percentages to be better,” she said, “but it’s not easy. We have more horses here now. That makes it more difficult to handicap races, but it’s also more fun. It’s tough to have more than 30 percent winners without picking every favorite.”
In 2012, Canterbury Park struck a deal with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owners of Mystic Lake Casino just down the road in Prior Lake, that pumped more money into purses for the track’s live racing season. In exchange, Canterbury Park dropped its efforts to add slot machines.
Some racing observers said the deal saved live racing at Canterbury. It allowed the track to offer more money for purses and extend its live racing season at a time when other tracks in the United States were cutting back or closing.
It also ensured that Hermann would have plenty to do. With more races and more horses running at the track, she said it now takes her five or six hours to do the research necessary to handicap one day of live racing.
She said track officials understand they have to connect with more than the hard-boiled racing enthusiasts. “They’re trying to reach out to a younger audience,” Hermann said. “I don’t know of any other track that’s had a ‘Zombie Night.’ We have promotions like that here every week.”
Hermann said she’s one of five or six women across the country who are paddock analysts at racetracks. When she sits behind a microphone to call a day of races – as she did last Sunday in place of regular track announcer Paul Allen, who was doing play-by-play of the Vikings’ preseason opener – that’s even more rare. Hermann also called a full slate of races at Canterbury in August 2013, which made her the first woman to do so at a North American thoroughbred track.
Hermann said she’s open to calling more races in the future, but added that she really likes her role as paddock analyst. Someday, she hopes it’s something she can do year-round. Even though Canterbury’s live racing season has been extended, it still lasts only four months. She also has worked as an analyst at tracks in Nebraska and suburban Chicago.
Growing up, Hermann said she always liked sports but didn’t play because she was so locked into horse racing, to the point where she would go to a daily newspaper’s sports section for handicapping information. Then she would watch Canterbury’s late-night wrap-up show on TV to see how she fared. That sometimes caused trouble at home, Hermann said, because the show usually aired after her bedtime.
That’s not an issue now. Instead, Hermann wants to share her love of racing with a wider audience.
“If someone tells me they had more fun at the track because of something I did, that’s a really good day,” she said.