Shortly before the start of the 2016 Canterbury Park season, longtime paddock analyst Angela Hermann was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to call races at Golden Gate Fields leaving the racetrack with a void to fill. Opening weekend was audition time for the candidates to replace her: Candace Hare and Brian Arrigoni. Both young, Hare is a well-respected racing analyst for sites like Danonymous Racing and Horse Players Now while Arrigoni is a local guy from the St. Paul area and a longtime regular handicapper at Canterbury Park. Both performed well with Arrigoni getting the analyst nod while Hare impressed as well, being named a National Handicapping Consultant for the track.
Arrigoni was kind enough to spend a few minutes over Memorial Day weekend with us “In the Paddock”.
How did you become a fan of racing? What got you involved?
My dad used to bring me here to the track when I was a kid. I was actually born on Breeders’ Cup day 1987 – the day of the classic duel between Ferdinand and Alysheba. Dad was holding me on that day and I was kind of born into it.
I always remember coming out here as a fan. My family goes to California in the summer and we’d always try and get to Del Mar.
Do you remember when you first started actively handicapping?
Absolutely. Dad used to get frustrated with me taking his Form at important times right before the races at the age of 12. I was actually getting my own Form at 12. He would give me a dollar for every bet I won.
So you could pick a 16-1 and you’d still get a buck and be happy?
Yeah, I would! I was happy with a buck.
How did this – the Canterbury analyst gig – come about?
It’s actually a crazy story. I saw on Facebook that Angela had left and it is something I always wanted to get into. My family always said I could talk and sell ice to an Eskimo so I decided to email Jeff Maday (Canterbury Media Relations) and Eric Halstrom (Vice President of Racing Operations). My goal was really to just get my foot in the door, maybe do the hot tub (nickname of the location of Canterbury’s pre-race show) a few times and get my name up there. I’ve always wanted to get into the racing industry but not having family involved or a racing background it is incredibly difficult to break into. So I really just shot them an email asking them for a try out and now, here we are, two weeks later. I was just flying by the seat of my pants. It’s really been a lot of fun.
Night one, you’re on your own for the first time, how did you feel?
I really don’t remember much of it. It just flew by and I just tried to get feedback from the guys like Paul (Allen, Canterbury’s track announcer), Jeff and Eric – learn from the best in the business. Everyone has been really warm and welcoming. I’m learning a lot and hopefully will continue to improve.
That night you gave the people a 12-1 winner – 15-1 on the morning line. It’s your first night and you want to be accurate, you want to be right – a spot where most people would go conservative – but you stand up there and give out a big longshot. How did that feel?
You know it was pretty funny, when I do my handicapping I don’t have the morning line so I actually had no idea that horse was 15-1. I had a feeling that it would a bit higher price but when I saw the morning line on that one I thought ‘man, I really hope that one runs well today!’ It was pretty crazy on your first day to put a 15-1 shot up there on top but it was kind of dumb luck.
What were some of the reactions of the folks at the track when they found out that their newly hired analyst just stood in front of the world and said he likes this 15-1?
It was pretty exciting. I heard Paul yell from the press box “nice hit” and it was pretty cool. That’s when it started feeling real and that everything was going be alright.
Now you’ve got a couple of days under your belt. What are you looking forward to going forward? What do you want to tweak? Work on?
I want to keep getting better. I want to get more relaxed, get more conversational in the paddock area. Maybe not so much the raw data – people that want that can get that in the Form themselves – but what I want to go after more are things like how the horses look in the paddock. Who is on their toes…who is washy? Things that the average fan may not know.
What’s changed for you since it was announced that you go the job going from just being a guy to being the paddock analyst at a racetrack that has really made a splash the last few years?
I think I said on Twitter – and I had no Twitter account until I got the job – that dreams really do come true after Paul posted a picture of me. And it really is true. I remember when I was a little kid coming out here and I used to think it was so cool that Paul would talk to me, or (former paddock analyst and current Fox Sports North analyst) Kevin Gorg would talk to me. The social media world is huge now and with Canterbury having the lowest takeout in the country and drawing a lot of national attention I think I spent upwards of an hour last night trying to respond to everyone on Twitter because I remember even two weeks ago when Paul and Kevin would talk to me or said hi to me in the hall I thought that was just the coolest thing. I’m almost thirty and it’s still cool to talk to those guys and I want to stay grounded and down to earth.