A PHOTOGRAPHER who covered Worcester Racecourse meets for 36 years has died, aged 70.

Les Hurley has been described as “one of the great photographers” and a “lovely, lovely man” by course executive director Jenny Cheshire.

The renowned tog, of Cradley Heath near Stourbridge, died in the early hours of Sunday morning (November 24) at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.

He had covered his final Worcester meet on October 25, 2017 where he was presented with a tributary garden bench by course announcer Charlie Parkin and Ms Cheshire.

The director – who will leave her role after nearly 20 years at the end of this week – has known Mr Hurley since arriving at Pitchcroft.

“I never heard a bad word about Les – there will be many who will miss him,” she said, adding: “I didn’t know he was poorly.”

Ms Cheshire said one of her fondest memories of Mr Hurley is going to his home to deliver the tributary bench after the presentation and having a coffee and a chat with him and his wife Alison.

She said she always remembered him arriving to work each day on his motorbike.

His love of motorcycles was so well-known he was apparently nicknamed the Kawasaki Kid by the Racing Post.

Worcester News photographer Jonathan Barry, who first met Mr Hurley in 2004, described him as a “real gent”. “He knew everybody and knew everything about horse racing photography. He was always helpful – he would help out any of the other photographers. “A really nice bloke,” he added.

During an interview with us in November 2017, following his retirement, Mr Hurley said it was his wife who talked him into taking up photography as a career. “I was a painter and decorator then and there was a recession on but she told me to go for it and I did what she said.”

He saw veteran tog Bernard Parkin, dad of friend Charlie, as something of a mentor, calling him a “gent in every sense of the word”.

Mr Hurley used to watch horse racing on TV with his dad as a child, before he discovered his love for photography. “I did point-to-point racing for about four years, capturing horse jumping and learning how a camera works,” he said.

“I’d take days off from work to go cover professional races out in the country.”

Having covered races at the likes of Cheltenham, Stratford, Warwick and Ludlow, Mr Hurley said Worcester always had a special place in his heart because it’s where he started professionally.

“They don’t get the big races at Worcester but it’s consistent stuff now that it’s turned to summer racing. When I started there was no summer racing and no all-weather.

“I tend to go do the smaller tracks and smaller meetings…I don’t like big crowds, particularly.”

Speaking on what has had the biggest impact on racing photography, he pinpointed the introduction of digital cameras and climate change.

“Digital has meant photography is different,” he said. “I’m glad I started in film though.

“You learn to look for the picture not just machine gun the photos. With film, you’d take three rolls but now you tend to take 300 shots because you can.

“But I still tend to wait for the perfect shot, because it’s the best technique. You see the horse coming, not just close your eyes and bang away,” he added.

“The climate has changed a lot. Most of us would be hiding in what they called the fence man’s hut at Cheltenham, because the rain always absolutely belted down. But the last few times, it’s been shirt sleeves and clear skies.”

Mr Hurley said one of the highlights of his career was taking racing photos of Jim Lewis-owned champion horse Best Mate for the Post.

“Best Mate won three gold cups at Cheltenham in a row, and I’d known Jim a bit by then and we became good racing friends,” he said. Mr Hurley briefly came out of retirement to shoot Worcester Racecourse’s 300-year celebratory races last summer – attended by Princess Anne. He is survived by his wife, as well as his three daughters and two granddaughters.