Agree Mushy. However, the handicappers job is not to even the field up to match Mara or the ceiling time of 9.00. It is to get the runners in the early meets to 9.10 start time and move them towards 9.00 as the season progresses. The danger for the handicapper is not the runners we know but the runners we don't know. Richter last year came out of nowhere and won Stawell. He ran Ballarat off the novice mark of 150m then got a 20m lift for Stawell which was fair.
I'd say Mara is 10 secs in front of the main contenders as they are marked to run around 9.10 start time.
Richter ran 9.10 to win Stawell on a sodden track last year. That may have equated to around 9.00 had it been dry, so with his 50m pull he is marked around 9.10. Spence ran 9.15 2 years ago at Stawell and has gone up 40m, so he is rated about 9.08. Bacalja, Burrows, Sait and Nolan are also genuine 2 milers who are capable on their given day to run under 9.10.
The other group are the veterans. The genuine 2 milers are Noden, Muir, Quilty, Longmuir, Leon Brooks, Harris and Hipworth. The problem is the front division has been streets off the back division in recent years.
So, in summary, Mara to win by 50m (unless he takes a sit somewhere in the race and just wins).
ps. The same rules apply to all other events and the runner who has improved themselves to the ceiling time has beaten the handicapper fairly. It is just the 2 mile suits only certain types of runners that the contenders are thinned out dramatically. Hippo group have won 10 out of the last 11 2 mile events in the VAL (not my stats so hope this is correct) and this will continue until 5k and 10k runners start entering.