Attempting to restore integrity in the sport of horse racing in the wake of a fraud scandal stemming from the Pick Six wager during the recent Breeders' Cup championships, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced plans yesterday to hire an independent technical audit firm that specializes in securing information technology systems.

Members of the recently formed NTRA Wagering Technology Working Group declined to name the firm or the cost to retain it, but said in a release it would be hired shortly, pending approval of the NTRA board of directors.

The technology working group was formed after Autotote, the Newark, Del.-based company that operates the computers that collected and processed wagers for the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 26, fired a computer programmer for allegedly manipulating software to trigger a $3 million payoff.

"We talked about bringing in any outside expertise to get to the bottom of this and move forward," said Alan Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and member of the working group's legal task force.

The Pick Six probe is being conducted by the New York State Police, New York Racing and Wagering Board and the FBI; the NTRA is focusing on reforms in parimutuel wagering.

The task force will attempt to address several issues: the lag time between when Pick Six wagers are made and actually sent to the host system -- an opening that Autotote employee Chris Harn was believed to have exploited; the ability for a tote company employee to compromise the system; and the potential for outside hackers to get into the system.