The New York Road to the Derby begins with today’s Count Fleet Stakes at a mile and 70 yards. These races for young three-year-olds are always a tricky forecast because young horses develop in leaps and bounds--or not.

On demonstrable form and performance-figure patterns, the field of seven looks like a two-horse affair for the top prize: Roman Emperor (4-1) vs. Giant Moon (5-2).

Roman Emperor is by the hottest sire of the moment, Empire Maker, whose offspring just keep getting better as the distances lengthen. Since adding blinkers for his second start, the Steve Klesaris trainee is 2-for-2, his latest showing improved early speed, a career pace top. The effort came at today’s distance and indicated another forward move is forthcoming. There should be enough early pace to suit his considerable late foot. Jeremy Rose ships in for the mount.

Giant Moon is undefeated in three career starts and this will be his toughest test on several levels. It will be his first start in open company vs. a group he cannot dominate on talent alone. Couple that with an outside post, speed to his inside, and a short run to the first turn; it’s not an inviting play at short odds. The good news for his fans, however, is that he wasn’t wound tightly for his last, according to trainer Rick Schosberg, and still won. No question that talent is there.

But we’re taking Roman Emperor to win at 5-2 or greater and an exacta box with Giant Moon. Trifecta players should consider Red Reef (6-1) and Run With Me (12-1) in money positions second and third.

Running Totals: (156) 56-34-16. Total Dollar Return: $347.60 [win selections only]