09/05/2013 3:04PM

Canterbury Park: Angela Hermann to announce full card Saturday

Coady Photography
Canterbury Park race analyst Angela Hermann interviews jockey Lori Keith in the track's winner's circle.

SHAKOPEE, Minn. – Angela Hermann, Canterbury Park’s track handicapper and paddock analyst since 2011, has done just about every job on the front side of this track in the last nine years: Clubhouse usher, ticket sales, guest services, and even the dispatcher in the valet parking area. There was one job, however, she always wanted to try.

She wanted to call the races.

On Saturday, Hermann, 27, will become the first woman to announce an entire race card at a North American Thoroughbred track.

While race-calling has long been a male-dominated profession, that may be beginning to change. Victoria Shaw is a full-time race caller in Australia and Hayley Moore is in training to be England’s first female race caller. While a female has never called a full Thoroughbred card in North America – Dawn Lupul does call harness races full time in Canada – Hermann will break that glass ceiling Saturday.

“It was something I was interested in doing but never thought I actually would,” said Hermann.

This past winter at Hawthorne Park, where Hermann was filling in as the track’s handicapping analyst, track announcer Peter Galassi called her up to the booth. In a race decimated by scratches, with a three-horse field remaining, he asked Hermann to call it. He had teased her in the past about calling races, but this time she took him up on the offer, and she was hooked.

“It was such a rush,” she said. “Filling in the gaps of time in a small field like that was a bit tough, but I loved it and definitely wanted to do it again.”

When she returned to Canterbury this season, she felt there might be an opportunity to call a race or two again under the tutelage of track announcer Paul Allen.

“With our extended meet this season, I was going to miss an all-time high number of race days,” said Allen, also the radio voice of the Minnesota Vikings. Tampa Bay Downs announcer “Richard Grunder does a nice job filling in for me, but I also wanted to do something different this year. I got with Angela early and wanted to see if she would call some races.”

Allen knew that if Hermann could call the entire card she would be the first female to do so.

“I owe Paul a lot,” Hermann said. “He has been an integral part of this experience.”

Allen has a distinctive style that resonates amongst the fans in Minnesota. He’s playful with the crowd while photo finishes are being determined and often hosts visitors in the booth for a race, letting the youngest count down the minutes to post.

While his comfortable and friendly style fits Canterbury well, Allen is a well-respected and seasoned race caller, having started his career in Northern California before moving to Canterbury in 1995.

Allen and Hermann have become close friends over the years, working together often during the Canterbury’s pre-race show “Today at the Races” and sharing handicapping insights in the press box. Allen has seen Hermann grow up at the track and has been a mentor to the young handicapper. The pair worked on Hermann’s race-calling style and delivery during the season as she called a few hand-picked races.

“We started slowly, calling small fields and then larger fields of cheaper horses that I knew would be strung out, so she could get a feel for the call and how to build to a crescendo as the race advances,” Allen said.

“The most important thing to me is getting into a rhythm,” Hermann said. “Listening to what the announcer says is easy; trying to get a good rhythm is hard. You don’t want to be really fast in one portion of the race only to have to dial it back again. Keeping the rhythm and building to a crescendo is what I strive to do.”

“One of the biggest things I learned in the races I have called is that you can’t get caught up in correcting yourself in the middle of a race. You have to move past any mistakes or you’ll sound even worse.”

A fan of Allen’s calls, as well as Trevor Denman, Tom Durkin, Larry Collmus, Galassi, and others, Hermann will put her own touch on the races when she calls the card Saturday.

“To put your own spin on it is tough when there are so many people you admire,” she said. “I love their catch phrases, and it’s hard to not want to use them, but you have to put your own style on it.”

Allen has enjoyed watching Hermann’s development as the season has progressed.

“It’s been a fun process watching her improve,” Allen said. “I have not met many people who love and have an understanding of this game like she does. I think that right now she is one of the 10 best track analysts in the country, and I watch a lot of racetracks. This experience is just going to make her that much more versatile.”

While some of the old railbirds may be dismayed at the departure from tradition Saturday, Allen isn’t concerned.

“We just do things differently here at Canterbury,” Allen said. “We’re not afraid to be unique. Not everyone is going to like what they hear on Saturday, but the point is that while we’re doing something different, we’re also doing it with a quality individual that will do a very good job.”

Hermann is looking forward to the experience and beyond.

“It’s pretty fun to be a barrier breaker, but this more than just that. This is something that I would enjoy pursuing further than just a one-day gig,” she said.