Japanese Title: The Great Fire Pokémon Race!
Original Airdate: November 11, 1997
US Airdate: October 21, 1998
Ash and co run into a Pokemon Rancher named Lara Laramie when Ash mistakenly tries to capture one of her Tauros, thinking he is in the Safari Zone. They find out that there is a big Pokemon race coming up and are invited to stay and watch. Unfortunately, Lara breaks her arm before she can compete, requesting a reluctant Ash to ride her Ponyta in her place.
- Character Development: Ponyta/Rapidash learns to trust Ash by the end of the episode.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Team Rocket's dirty tricks (along with one of his own attacks) nearly allowed Dario to win the race but luckily, Ash and Ponyta manage to catch up and, thanks to Ponyta's evolution, they managed to beat him by a split second. Dario, furious at his loss orders Dodrio to attack Rapidash, only to be kicked off flying into the sky by Rapidash.
- Crippling the Competition: To increase his chances of winning, Dario hires Team Rocket to sabotage the race. Team Rocket does by scaring the Tauros in Lara Laramie's ranch, resulting in Ponyta getting spooked and throwing Lara off, breaking her arm in the process. Later, they use slingshots and pitfall traps to slow down or stop the other racers. At the end, they directly battle Ash and his friends directly, giving Dario enough time to leave with a head start.
- Death Glare: Arbok is able to paralyze Pikachu and Squirtle by doing this.
- Dub-Induced Plot Hole: In both the beginning and end of the episode in the dub, the narrator points out that Ash and Co. are in the Safari Zone, when they are actually in the Laramie Ranch which is part of the Pokémon Reserve, this also loses out the actual Safari Zone episode, and the Tauros in said episode.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Ponyta's evolution happens while Ash is still on it, which results in Ash himself also glowing during the transformation.
- 11th-Hour Superpower: Ponyta evolves into Rapidash just in time to win the race.
- End-of-Episode Silliness: Dario, angered by his loss and blaming Team Rocket for it, orders his Dodrio to peck them.
- Horse of a Different Color: While Ponyta is basically a horse Pokémon, many of the chosen mounts are much more unusual. Dodrio in particular is the Pokémon version of the classic upright bird mount seen in much speculative Sci-Fi, a lot like a Chocobo.
- Hypocrite: When Ash beats Dario to the finish line and wins the race, Dario has the nerve to call him the cheater, even though he was the one who had his Dodrio peck Ponyta on the final stretch (not to mention he hired Team Rocket to sabotage the other racers).
- Jerkass: Dario. He's willing to win the race by any means necessary—even if it includes cheating by hiring Team Rocket to sabotage his opponents in life-endangering ways or having his Dodrio peck his opponent's Pokémon to slow them down.
- Loophole Abuse: Apparently, there wasn't any rules that say a Pokemon couldn't be a rider, allowing Pikachu to enter with Squirtle as his ride.
- Magical Defibrillator: After Ash and Ponyta get knocked out by Electrode's Explosion, Pikachu uses his electricity to get them back in the race.
- Multiple Head Case: Dario hits a problem when each of his Dodrio's three heads wants to eat first.
- Mythology Gag:
- Electrode has the highest speed stat of all Pokémon up until Generation III, which is why it may seem like a good idea to enter it in a race. Too bad that Reality Ensues and it's not only difficult to ride but explodes and takes a lot of racers down with it.
- Glare in the games is used to Paralyze Pokémon in battle, thus making them unable to attack and crippling their speed.
- Oh, Crap!:
- James reacts in horror when his Weezing instinctively releases its gas on Ponyta, whose flaming mane had engulfed its body. Sure enough, the gas ignites and blasts off TR.
- Onix also has a moment of this witnessing the first stone in the lake sink under a Rhyhorn's weight, realizing it's also been eliminated from the race.
- Only the Chosen May Ride: It is stated that Ponyta's (and most probably also Rapidash's) fiery mane burns anyone who he/she does not trust. Ash (who's supposed to be riding Lara's Ponyta in a race) gets burned the first (and second) time he tries to touch Ponyta, but eventually the two learn to work together.
- Rule of Cute: Pikachu not only enters the race as a rider, but he enters it riding Squirtle! Many cute shenanigans ensue.
- Running Gag: Ash getting burnt by Ponyta.
- Ship Tease: A brief comment from Lara implies that she sees something more than a bully in Dario.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Ash and Rapidash have had enough of Dario at the end of the race, and send him blasting off.
- The Snack Is More Interesting: Doubling as a Funny Background Event, Pikachu and Squirtle don't bother to listen to the Team Rocket motto in the canyon; their stomachs come first.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- The racer who rode on an Electrode. Not only does it look hard to balance, but Electrode are known to self-destruct when upset or overcharged.
- Not to mention the guy riding a Rhyhorn trying to cross the river, it results in both of then sinking like a rock.
- Weezing has a moment where it launches a gas attack at Ponyta despite James telling it not to. Ponyta's flame ends up igniting the gas and sending Team Rocket blasting off.
- Wacky Racing: It's a horse race with Pokémon of all kinds as mounts.