A PASSIONATE VOICE FOR HORSE RACING

By JIM WELLS

She’d check the morning newspaper for the entries, handicap according to her own lights at the time and then record the Canterbury Report on the VCR to watch the next morning or after school that day.

That was during her middle school days, the seventh and eighth grades. She’d watch the big races on television, the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders’ Cup races. And she’d dream a bit.
At age 16, she made her move and got a job at Canterbury Park, working in the ticket office and ushering people to their tables in the clubhouse.

Meet Angela Hermann, Canterbury’s paddock analyst this year, who fell in love with horse racing as a mere girl and then nurtured it into a fiery passion as a young woman.

“I got a job at Canterbury as soon as I could drive and it sucked me right in. I never had a chance,” Hermann said.

The “it,” of course, is that overwhelming, all encompassing, addictive activity called horse racing.
If you’ve watched Hermann’s act in the paddock this season, you can almost sense her passion, her absolute fascination and devotion to analyzing, talking about and selling a race and its participants to that day’s crowd.

If anything, she tries to deliver too much information in too short a time, dedicated as she is to disseminating everything possible from her growing library on the sport, its riders and trainers, the local stables and horses and anything else she knows and considers important to the man or woman about to lay down a couple of bucks on the upcoming race.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that this attractive, articulate addition to Canterbury’s handicapping landscape is talented and knowledgeable. There is an old saying in prizefighting about such an individual: We’ve got a bona fide contender here.

Hermann landed in the paddock this summer after long-time analyst Kevin Gorg got expanded television duties discussing the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Wild.

The road to the paddock took Hermann through a variety of hallways, rooms and cubbyholes at Canterbury. When she worked in the ticket booth, she’d watch the races between busy spells and take notes.

When she worked in group sales as a greeter, introducing visiting groups to the track and helping them with their bets, she’d watch the races and take notes. Don’t tell anybody, but occasionally she’d put down a bet herself through a friend _someone who wouldn’t rat on her. She worked the information booth and group sales at the same time during one stint, then began assisting with contests.

On her 18th birthday, she made her first legal bet on a horse named Blue’s Effort _ “I think that was the name,” she said – to place. “My first race and I won,” she added.

During the summers of 2008 and 2009, Hermann took a hiatus from Canterbury to handle the paddock duties at the Lincoln and Columbus meets in Nebraska.

At that point, her parents began to understand that horse racing was not a mere activity _ say, like golf _ for their daughter.

“It kind of caught them by surprise,” Angela said. “I think they thought that it was something that would fade out and that I’d go to college.”

Well, in fact, she does, but she’s the teacher, conducting classes in the Canterbury College, teaching people how to play the game.

Nonetheless, Hermann says her family gives her unconditional support and helps keep her grounded “I could not do it without my mom and my stepdad,” she said.

A native of Apple Valley, Hermann landed her first job at Canterbury during the summer break between her junior and senior years in high school. Now, many of the people she considered the stars of the show at one time _ jockeys, trainers etc. _ are her colleagues.

The toughest part of her job this summer has been giving every horse a look and not dismissing a runner who might turn into a winner despite first appearances. “I’ve been letting some longshots slip past me,” she explained.. “You can’t overlook anybody in any race this year. That’s helping me grow in handicapping. But I can deal with a little bit of humility in the short term to get better in the long term.”

Hermann believes that everyone can improve at whatever they do, regardless of the level they’ve already reached, high as it might be.

She, herself, has made considerable strides in public speaking since her first attempt at it as a sophomore and junior in high school when she did the morning announcements.

“I got kicked off the job,” she said, “for being too quiet and shy.”

Not a problem any more. Not by any means.

WEEKLY TRAINER, GROOM AWARDS

A native Minnesota raised not far from Canterbury Park is the newest trainer of the week. Christine Riddle, in her third season of training on her own, was raised in Eden Prairie and began riding as a youngster. Later, she showed quarter horses and did some jumping.

Riddle has saddled 15 horses this meet and has three winners. After saddling winners on back-to-back days last week, Riddle said: “We needed that. It will help boost morale.”

Seferino Martinez, meanwhile, has been selected the track’s groom of the week. Martinez works for the Ed Ross Hardy barn and is described as “an outstanding worker with a great work ethic, honest, punctual and willing to take on any new assignment. He has a great attitude, according to his employer, and works well with the younger grooms in the bard.

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