SHAKOPEE, Minn. — In the last 40 years, horse racing — the so-called Sport of Kings — has seen more and more women edge into male-dominated fields and succeed. Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone rode 3,704 winners, including the first by a woman in the Triple Crown series and the Breeders’ Cup. Trainer Jenine Sahadi’s horses won more than $26 million.
One component, however, remained strictly male. When the starting gate clanged open and the horses thundered down the course, the voice calling the race was usually a man’s.
On Saturday, Angela Hermann — a 27-year-old paddock analyst and handicapper at Canterbury Park, a small summer track southwest of Minneapolis — will be the first woman to call a full thoroughbred race card in North America, according to the Daily Racing Form, the industry’s leading publication.
Research by the D.R.F. and Canterbury turned up a handful of women in the U.S. who called individual races, but none who worked a full card.
Women often serve as paddock analysts on in-house and cable broadcasts, the equivalent of an NFL sideline reporter. That’s usually as far as they get. Australia has one full-time woman announcer, Victoria Shaw. In Great Britain, jockey Hayley Moore won a contest to find a female announcer and is scheduled to complete her training program this month. So Hermann will be a groundbreaker.
“I don’t really toot my horn like that,” she said. “But I’m still just excited for the opportunity.”
Hermann is getting her chance because Canterbury track announcer Paul Allen, the radio voice of the Minnesota Vikings, will be flying to Detroit for the club’s season opener. Canterbury usually hires Tampa Bay Downs announcer Richard Grunder to fill in, but Allen pushed for Hermann this time. A horse fanatic from childhood, Hermann attended horse camps, collected model horses and filled the walls of her Apple Valley, Minn., room with horse posters. Some girls outgrow that phase, but Hermann never did. As soon as she could drive, Hermann got a job as an usher at Canterbury.
She worked in guest services, making friends and learning the industry, until track official Jeff Maday invited her to appear on Canterbury’s daily pre-race show. Canterbury mutual manager Mike Newlin, freshly hired to run Lincoln Race Course in Nebraska, liked the 20-year-old Hermann’s poise and offered her a job as Lincoln’s paddock analyst. Three years later, Canterbury hired her for the paddock.
The race-calling idea bubbled up this spring, before Canterbury opened, during Hermann’s paddock gig at Hawthorne Race Course outside Chicago. Regular announcer Peter Galassi teased Hermann about calling a race, then urged her to try it.
“I kept telling her, you never know what the future is going to bring,” Galassi said in a telephone interview. “I said, `You’re articulate. You have the knowledge. I think you can do this.’ With a little more encouragement, she finally decided to do it.”
Late in the meet, when scratches reduced a field to three horses, Hermann jumped in. She liked it so much that Galassi let her call two more races.
“I can memorize a field very quickly,” she said. “And I talk very fast, so I don’t need to rev myself up or enunciate or anything like that, because when I’m talking fast, somehow, it comes out clear.”
Back at Canterbury, Hermann told Allen about it. He arranged for her to call more than half-a-dozen races there. Hermann aspires to be a paddock analyst in California more than an announcer, but she is still excited and nervous about her big day.
“I just hope that Doug (Schoepf, the racing secretary), wherever you are, please don’t fill Saturday with a bunch of 12-horse races,” Hermann said. “That’s all I ask.”